The Adrian Loveridge Column – Argyle International Airport Will Open for Business Soon

Argyle Airport in St. Vincent (Artist impression)

Argyle Airport in St. Vincent (Artist impression)

Five years later than planned, Argyle International Airport in nearby St. Vincent will officially open on 14th February 2017 at a cost of EC$700 million (roughly US$260 million) including ‘in-kind contributions’.

According to a radio interview with Glen Beache, former Minister of Tourism and currently Chief Executive Officer of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority, at least two international flights will touch down on St. Valentine’s Day, a chartered Canadian Sunwing Airlines from Toronto bringing nationals and visitors and a Caribbean Airlines flight from New York’s JFK airport.

By anybody’s reckoning it’s an incredibly bold move. The airport will be capable of handling up to 1.4 million passengers each year and to put that in perspective, a recent Travel Weekly article quoted that SVG ‘registered close to 62,000 air arrivals in 2014’. Apparently discussions have taken place with several major airlines with the front runners likely to be jetBlue from the USA, WestJet from Canada and British Airways from the United Kingdom.

It is always a finite balance between room availability and airlift and not surprisingly after the recent closure of their only ‘large’ hotel, Buccament Bay, with all the associated incredibly complex legal implications, a major effort has been made to attract new hotel plant. Mr. Beache stated the solar-powered airport ‘has generated considerable interest among hotel investors and developers. There is a Canadian developer now who has expressed interest in building three branded properties in St. Vincent; a three-star, four-star and six-star hotel plus a golf course and a complex of 200 bungalows. If we get a branded hotel property, it will give legitimacy to the destination and helps bring in potential visitors who like to stay at a hotel whose name they recognise’.

Knowing just how long even developments which are able to fast-track all the required planning permissions, it would be difficult to accept that these proposed projects could make any real difference to attracting airlift in the immediate future.

So what are the options?

The 32 islands, nine of which are uninhabited, that curve south from St. Vincent, the largest of the archipelago offer a very special largely ‘niche market’ tourism product. Take a straw poll and I would expect that one of its biggest attractions to the people who travel there is that it is largely underdeveloped and unspoiled.

Notably, it is a yacht man’s dream destination. No island is far from another, predictable winds (at least in the winter), pristine waters, scenic harbours and probably one of the most desirable climates on the planet.

I am of course not privy to any discussions that have taken place with our Government, Ministry of Tourism or Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., but as silly as it may sound to others, I would be talking to the SVG counterparts, to explore and implement ways that we could work together and minimise the risk to both destinations by looking at possible triangular routes where the same plane from major visitor feed cities deplane at both

Argyle and Grantley Adams (GAIA) airports.

Secondly I would be speaking to the cruise ship operators, especially the ones who operate smaller ships, like Star Clippers, Windstar, Silversea and SeaBourn, who could produce seat capacity volume.

It would be easy to conclude that the opening or Argyle could pose a potential threat to our air arrival numbers, where direct services to SVD could negatively impact, so let’s instead look at it as an opportunity.

Tags: ,

22 Comments on “The Adrian Loveridge Column – Argyle International Airport Will Open for Business Soon”

  1. charles skeete January 9, 2017 at 5:28 AM #

    I am one of those who applaud the Government of St Vincent for taking the bold step albeit without guaranteed funding -having to rely as the Prime Minister referenced to “the coalition of the willing”- to construct an International airport and they ought to be commended. I do hope that common sense prevails and in the interest of the country do not let political considerations influence the management of the institution but rather include person with the requisite knowledge to ensure that the airport is managed effectively and efficiently in all respects so that it can generate the required traffic to attract the revenue necessary to keep the airport properly maintained. I as a frequent visitor to St Vincent wish the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines well and success as they embark on this new journey.

    In addition I fully endorse your view that the Governments of Barbados and St Vincent should be exploring opportunities to implement ways to work together and minimise the risk to both destinations by looking at possible triangular routes where the same plane from major visitor feed cities deplane at both Argyle and Grantley Adams (GAIA) airports.

    Like

  2. charles skeete January 9, 2017 at 5:39 AM #

    By the way could you please respond given your considerable knowledge of the intricacies of the airline industry to my query to you as to why it costs twice as much to travel from the Barbados to North America and the United Kingdom in contrast to travel from North America and the United Kingdom to Barbados.

    Like

  3. Adrian Loveridge January 9, 2017 at 8:02 AM #

    Charles, I thought I had. Taxation is one element, but by no means the only. Remember that Barbados levies 17.5 per cent VAT on airline tickets (not cruises) whereas the UK does not. Landing charges and other forms of taxation also play a large part. Sometimes you can buck the system. I booked a flight from Barbados to Manchester three weeks ago at a cost of GB Pounds 129 (roughly BDS$322) including VAT and all the add-ons.

    Like

  4. Vincent Haynes January 9, 2017 at 11:27 AM #

    Can Argyle accomodate large aircrafts all year round now,as it was stated that a wind problem existed at certain periods making it difficult for aircraft to take off and land?

    Like

  5. David January 9, 2017 at 11:37 AM #

    It will be interesting to see how quickly St.Vincent will be able to rampup room plant. No doubt the ROI is based on a plan.

    Like

  6. chad99999 January 9, 2017 at 1:11 PM #

    The Argyle airport has been a political football for the last decade. These are the specifics of what Vincent Haynes seems to be talking about:

    “According to page 14 of the [Government of St. Vincent’s] Environmental Impact Assessment, the whole rationale for building the Argyle airport was to accommodate Boeing B747-400 aircraft [on a 9,000 ft. runway]. However, the conditions at Argyle are not suitable for the Boeing B747-400, because of very strong crosswinds.

    The [Government] failed to carry out the 5 years of wind studies needed before constructing an airport runway, as set out by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines. The wind studies carried out between February and October in 2007 showed that the wind direction was predominantly east to west; that the wind speeds at Argyle reached 53 knots, and it was not uncommon for the wind to be around 40 knots. This is too much for a 747 aircraft.

    In good weather, Argyle will be highly unsuitable for landing and take-off of 747 aircraft. In bad weather, wet weather, it will be impossible.

    In 2007, it was known that the crosswind speeds at Argyle were up to 53 knots, and that the site was not suitable for 747 aircraft; yet the [Government] ignored the facts and recklessly carried on regardless. [They] displaced many families and businesses at Argyle, and destroyed hundreds of acres of prime agricultural land, knowing that the wind speeds would make [the runway] unsuitable for the 747.”

    Like

  7. chad99999 January 9, 2017 at 1:25 PM #

    I have no idea whether the Green Party of St. Vincent, which has raised the issue of cross winds at Argyle, is making a valid argument.

    However, problems of this type are not unheard of. To wit:

    “High winds have indefinitely delayed the full opening of a brand new airport designed to make the remote island of St. Helena more accessible. The island, a British Overseas Territory, lies roughly 1,150 miles off the west coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean is accessible only by a ship, the RMS St. Helena, in a journey that takes five days from South Africa, the BBC reports.

    The airport, built by the British Department for International Development for a price of $410 million, was slated to open in April, Global Construction Review reports. A DfID spokesperson [said] that some planes had been able to land on the island, including an airplane which successfully evacuated a sick child to South Africa. But validation flights into the airport using a Boeing 737-800 found wind shear to be too extreme for large airliners to operate,

    “Due to its location in the southern Atlantic Ocean where southeasterly trade winds dominate, St. Helena sees fairly constant windy conditions,” said weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce. According to locals, typical wind speeds are in the range of 10 to 20 mph, and though rare, wind speeds of up to 50 mph have been recorded.

    Though a revised opening date has yet to be determined, the St. Helena government maintains that “press reports … that describe St Helena Airport as being … ‘postponed indefinitely’ are incorrect,” according to USA Today.

    “There are wind shear challenges on one runway. We are collecting wind data which will allow larger planes to land on this runway, but this will take some time,” the government said in a statement. ”In the meantime, we are working hard to identify an interim flight solution that can land on our second runway.”

    St. Helena Governor Lisa Philips [said] the wind shear is too extreme for large airliners such as the Boeing 737-800 to land safely at the airport when approaching from the north. However, the Governor believes select types of airliners will be able land at the airport if they approach from the south. But even then conditions are not ideal because there is a tail wind. Pilots prefer to take off and land into the wind.The delay in opening the airport does not mean the island is cut off though. ”

    Source: https://weather.com/news/weather/news/st-helena-island-brand-new-airport-unsafe-due-to-high-winds#/!

    Like

  8. Vincent Haynes January 9, 2017 at 3:49 PM #

    Thanks Chad5ofnine for expanding on the issue.

    Like

  9. Vincent Haynes January 9, 2017 at 5:06 PM #

    David January 9, 2017 at 4:59 PM #

    Never heard of them.

    Like

  10. David January 9, 2017 at 7:49 PM #

    St. Vincent & the Grenadines ratifies WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement; Four more ratifications to go

    by caribbeantradelaw

    On January 9, 2017, the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent & the Grenadines became the 106th country to ratify the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). Only four more ratifications are needed in order to bring the Agreement into force (two-thirds of the WTO membership, i.e. 110 members). The […]

    Read more of this post

    Like

  11. charles skeete January 10, 2017 at 6:05 AM #

    “Sometimes you can buck the system. I booked a flight from Barbados to Manchester three weeks ago at a cost of GB Pounds 129 (roughly BDS$322) including VAT and all the add-ons.”

    Grateful if you can share that information in detail because three weeks ago I was looking for such a flight without success despite searching all of my regular sites which offer discounted fares and I have to be in London between February and March and would welcome such a fare. The fares I saw with your price tag were from Manchester to Barbados through Thomas cook and my niece came to Barbados on that kind of fare but the expectation that charters would have offered a special fare as they usually do at this time of the year on their return journey to The Unite Kingdom never materialised. My children travelled to Manchester in December for $1500 Bds approx. 550 pounds but I had to effect those bookings before June 30.

    Like

  12. charles skeete January 10, 2017 at 6:14 AM #

    “In 2007, it was known that the crosswind speeds at Argyle were up to 53 knots, and that the site was not suitable for 747 aircraft; yet the [Government] ignored the facts and recklessly carried on regardless. [They] displaced many families and businesses at Argyle, and destroyed hundreds of acres of prime agricultural land, knowing that the wind speeds would make [the runway] unsuitable for the 747.””

    Based on your information Chad which I assume is correct the Argyle international airport will therefore never be opened for large aircraft or no aircraft at all since it does not meet International Aviation Organization safety guidelines. I hope you are wrong for I believe that it was an ambitious project but necessary for the travelling pubic of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines to minimise the difficulties they experience having to intransit through Barbados and Grenada after travelling long distances to reach their homeland. Your reference to displacement -which is always though painful for some but necessary for the good of many- seems to be political diatribe.

    Like

  13. Adrian Loveridge January 10, 2017 at 8:03 AM #

    Charles,

    Please check the Thomas Cook Airlines website. If you can chose certain dates then GB Pounds 350 return – Barbados/Manchester are currently available in February and March.

    The beauty about TC is that you can book one way and so if travelling to the UK twice or more in the same year you can purchase the ticket in the UK with BA and Virgin and avoid the VAT. I have just booked another flight LGW/Barbados/LGW out April back July at GB Pounds 488 with Virgin (sale on until 7th Feb).

    Like

  14. Adrian Loveridge January 10, 2017 at 8:05 AM #

    Charles, did I hear correctly that LIAT cancelled certain flight into Barbados last week because the winds were above 15 knots?

    Like

  15. Commentator January 10, 2017 at 7:04 PM #

    You are incorrect Loveridge you must know if that was true the Nation, Barbados Today, VOB and BU would have gleefully publishit.

    Fake news such as you promote helps as far as the media is concerned to make the government and Barbados look bad and that’s the objective. Isn’t it.

    Like

  16. David January 10, 2017 at 7:10 PM #

    @Commentator aka fan aka waiting

    #JA

    Like

  17. Artax January 10, 2017 at 7:57 PM #

    Commentator January 10, 2017 at 7:04 PM #

    “Fake news such as you promote helps as far as the media is concerned to make the government and Barbados look bad and that’s the objective. Isn’t it.”

    @ Commentator

    Come on my friend, don’t blame the media or Loveridge.

    If you were to consider the shiite Denis Kellman posts on “facebook” and talks on the “call-in-programs;” Donville fighting for “self preservation;” Michael Lashley struggling with the Transport Board and pot holes;” Sinckler’s inability to implement economic policies and taxes or tell the truth about the economy; a Central Bank Governor who continues to dodge the media in hopes of facing journalists who ask “lollipop questions;” and the list goes on.

    Under these circumstances, SURELY you must ADMIT this inept DLP administration has been doing an EXCELLENT job “to make the government and Barbados look bad and (it seems as though) that’s the objective.”

    Like

  18. charles skeete January 11, 2017 at 6:40 AM #

    I am not aware of such cancellations but thanks for your information re- travel to London.

    Like

  19. Adrian Loveridge January 11, 2017 at 11:11 AM #

    Charles,

    Gatwick or Birmingham to Barbados – out 22 Jan – return 5 Feb – GB pounds 219 return including all taxes with Thomson

    Like

  20. charles skeete January 31, 2017 at 7:38 AM #

    Adrian Loveridge January 10, 2017 at 8:03 AM #

    Charles,

    Please check the Thomas Cook Airlines website. If you can chose certain dates then GB Pounds 350 return – Barbados/Manchester are currently available in February and March.

    The beauty about TC is that you can book one way and so if travelling to the UK twice or more in the same year you can purchase the ticket in the UK with BA and Virgin and avoid the VAT. I have just booked another flight LGW/Barbados/LGW out April back July at GB Pounds 488 with Virgin (sale on until 7th Feb).

    is this fare and sale restriction only for travel between April to July

    Like

Join in the discussion, you never know how expressing your view may make a difference.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: