Preparations to launch Antigua Airways by October gather pace

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Plans to have the first plane of Antigua Airways – a new West African-operated airline – in the air by October are gathering momentum.

That’s according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne who told Observer that planes will be leased within a few weeks.

This is a step in the right direction, Browne said, and further solidifies the mid-October timeline that was previously announced for the airline’s first flight.

The carrier – set to link the twin island nation directly to West Africa – is being financed by African investors. A formal agreement was signed between the government and Nigerian publishing and printing firm Marvelous Mike Press Limited earlier this month.

“This is a private sector investment that we are duty bound to support and to wish for its success because if they are able to establish reliable air links between Africa and the Caribbean, more specifically between Nigeria and Antigua and Barbuda, I think it will be a great initiative to help strengthen the bonds of friendship between the Caribbean people and those in Africa,” PM Browne said.

“We will have more movement of people, more investments between the Caribbean and that is something that all the heads within the region are desirous of achieving.”

He went on to commend the investors for what he admitted is a risky venture.

“It’s not many investors who would want to dump a few million dollars into leasing a couple of planes to move people between Africa and the Caribbean and from that standpoint I think that they ought to be commended,” Browne added.

He rubbished suggestions made by United Progressive Party officials that an investor should have industry experience to make such an undertaking.

“You have many consultancy firms who are familiar with the airline business, they can advise them of the assets that they need and the type of systems that they need to put in place and they have actually employed the services of one such firm,” the PM said.

“We would have met those individuals a few months ago and they have the resources to at least lease the planes, and the lease will come with lots of pilots and support staff.

“So, it is not a case that they have to go and train pilots and so on. Hopefully, we will get LIAT 2020 going as well and they will able to provide connectivity between Antigua and other Caribbean countries for those persons who want to go beyond [our] shores,” Browne stated.

Antigua Airways will be the country’s first airline linking the twin island nation directly to West Africa.

The news was first revealed in Cabinet notes last month which reported that the carrier would be financed by wealthy Africans wishing to open a new route between the African continent and the Eastern Caribbean.

The Nigerian investors will finance the airline’s operations while the government of Antigua and Barbuda will receive 20 percent of the profits.

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