The government has declined to comment on a claim that Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd has threatened to pull out of Antigua next year if it does not get an increase in subsidy from the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) administration, against the backdrop of the high operational costs.
The Minister responsible for Tourism and Investment, Charles “Max” Fernandez has only confirmed that the airline has asked for additional subsidy, but he did not disclose the amount and for how long the airline wishes to have that subsidy.
The minister also indicated that the request for the increase in subsidy was brought to his attention several weeks ago and the matter was discussed in Cabinet yesterday, as negotiations continue.
“They are requesting a subsidy next year. We paid a subsidy in the past. However, they are requesting an increase. We haven’t agreed, and we’re still negotiating,” he said in response to queries yesterday.
The minister said he could not discuss anything further about the matter, nor the past subsidy which was granted during the tenure of one of his predecessors.
Efforts to reach officials from Virgin Atlantic were unsuccessful.
Currently, Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd is operating three direct flights per week into Antigua’s V.C. Bird International Airport from London Gatwick. Up to May, it operated four flights per week but since the tourist season ended for the 2018/19 period, one of those flights was halted supposedly until the next season.
That fourth flight was introduced to Antigua in 2013.
Next year will mark 20 years since the airline has been operating flights to Antigua and Barbuda.