Government plans grand opening for Barbuda airport ‘in two weeks’

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By Robert Andre Emmanuel

[email protected]

The Barbuda airport looks set to have a grand opening ceremony within two weeks—according to the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Ambassador Lionel Hurst.

The Cabinet said that the Barbuda airport was ‘weeks away from receiving international flights’.

 Cabinet also shared that more than US$14 million had been used to build the 6,100 feet runway—with an extra 1,000 feet expected to be added in the near future.

“We are about two weeks off from having the new airport in Barbuda receive all the certification necessary for it to operate,” Ambassador Hurst said in his opening statement to the media.

However, the government is still awaiting the approval from the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA).

“We have put in an application with the ECCAA, and we await their instructions because, you know, we’ve done everything we think that has to be done.

“I think there is a weather system that… may still yet need to be put in place, but I understand that a lot of that equipment is already in Antigua and that it will be installed in Barbuda,” he said.

The Barbuda airport has been under the spotlight from Barbudan activists who brought legal challenges to stop the construction of the runway.

The legal case made its way to the Privy Council where John Mussington and Jacklyn Frank, who brought the original case against the government, were found to have sufficient standing to challenge the government.

Much of the discussion by judges at the Privy Council centred around whether the government had consulted sufficiently with the Barbudan people, which the court held that the government failed to consult properly with the people of Barbuda, bypassing certain procedures including an environment impact assessment being sought and granted before construction started.

Adding to the controversy was the fact that many Barbudans were alerted to the development when they returned to Barbuda following the passage of Hurricane Irma which destroyed much of the island.

Meanwhile, LIAT 2020 is set to also be hitting the skies in a couple of weeks after the airline received its air operator’s certificate (AOC) from ECCAA.

Nigerian-based airline, Air Peace, owns 70 percent of the new airline, which has been resuscitated via the efforts of the Antiguan government that owns 30 percent of the shares.

However, one of the concerns raised during the Cabinet press briefing by reporters was the costs of the new regional airline as affordability of regional air connectivity has been raised by persons across the region.

According to Hurst, Air Peace, as majority shareholder, will be responsible for ensuring the price to travel remains affordable to local Caribbean citizens as they plan to establish an air route to Nigeria.

“So those decisions are going to be made largely by the private operator, and governments are without a doubt going to collaborate with them, since we want air traffic to be affordable to the people of the Caribbean, and we think that Air Peace is smart enough to make those fares attractive to folks who want to travel in groups throughout the Caribbean,” Hurst said.

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