Flow control ends, air traffic back to normal
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua-Air travel stakeholders have all expressed their relief at the end of the ‘flow control’ system at the V.C. Bird International Airport following two weeks of delayed and cancelled flights that severely damaged Antigua’s tourism product, and the reputation and cheque books of some airlines.
V.C. Bird International Airport
Enacted on December 19, 2008 by the Guild of Antigua and Barbuda Air Traffic Controllers (GABATCO), the flow control would only allow one plane to land every twenty minutes at the airport, causing a back log of aircraft waiting to land or take off.
The GABATCO Public Relations Officer Wesley Joseph has maintained that the air traffic controllers’ action and subsequent repeal were unrelated to ongoing contractual discussions with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
“As far as having [the flow control] daily that has been cancelled,” Joseph was reported as saying in the Antigua Sun earlier this week.
He did state however that the flow control may continue on weekends and holidays of exceptionally high amounts of air traffic.
“If the supervisor deemed that one [plane] in 20 [minutes] is a good way to keep it going as opposed to one in 10, it is just up to the discretion of the supervisor.” ~~Adz:Right~~
Meanwhile, Minister with responsibility for Civil Aviation and Tourism, Hon. Harold Lovell said that he was pleased to see an end to the flow control which had caused “tremendous damage to Antigua and Barbuda” in terms of finances and reputation among tourists.
The minister added that he did not feel the air traffic controllers’ actions were related to the contract negotiations, which made strides at an emergency meeting between the two parties on Monday (Jan. 5).
Although Virgin Atlantic Airways, Air Canada, Caribbean Airlines and Winair were adversely affected, Antigua and Barbuda based carrier LIAT was perhaps the hardest hit airline with an estimated loss of US $500,000 or more. The airline issued a release stating their satisfaction with the return to normalcy.
“Over the last few weeks, we have been feeling the effects of the flow control and we here at LIAT are very relieved that the restrictions have been lifted,” the statement from the Corporate Communications Office said.
During the ordeal hundreds of passengers were forced to experience extended flight delays and cancellations, which led to airlines operating in Antigua having to ‘foot the bill’ for meals, transportation and hotel accommodation for the irate travelers.