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Oct 9, 2002

New flights will mean stress at airport

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More international airlines flying into Belize is good news, right? Well, yes, but as News 5′s Janelle Chanona discovered, there’s a potential downside as well.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

With both U.S. Air and Air Jamaica expected to begin service in Belize in November of this year, and existing carriers American and Continental adding more flights, the Belize Airports Authority has been preparing the Phillip S.W. Goldson International Airport for the frequent fliers.

Pablo Espat, Chief Executive Officer at the Airports Authority says renovations began months ago. The upgrade includes terminal expansions for new check-in counters, airline offices and even dining facilities; investments valued at more than half a million Belize dollars.

Pablo Espat, Chief Executive Officer, Airports Authority

“We’ve also been expanding various facilities in the terminal building such as a public address system, flight information display system, we’ve also installed an additional two hundred seating capacity for passengers, and various other improvements in and around the airport in order for us to deal with the additional traffic.”

Janelle Chanona

“Right now, approximately thirty-five hundred passengers arrive at the P.G.I.A. on a weekly basis but by mid-December that number will increase significantly when Airport Authorities will have to accommodate as many as twenty-four hundred additional travellers.”

And crunch time will come on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, when in the space of approximately one hour, there will be four international carriers on the ground at the same time. At 12:40 in the afternoon, the American Airlines flight out of Miami touches down. Continental arrives from Houston at 1:18…about the same time that Air Jamaica from Montego Bay is scheduled to land. A few minutes later, U.S. Air’s flight out of Charlotte touches down. If not handled efficiently, all that activity could add up to chaos.

It is estimated that on average, today, it takes thirty minutes for a passenger to clear customs and immigration; and fifteen minutes for bags to be transported from the plane on arrival to the carousel. But the increase in visitors will mean more people to process, more luggage to handle and more people to screen…translation: more time spent in the airport.

Pablo Espat

“It is that time of the day which we’re focusing on in terms of ensuring that we have adequate people to staff the various processes: immigration, customs, security, car park facilities, to make sure that at those times in particular we have adequate staffing to ensure as smooth processing of passengers.”

According to the head of Aero Dispatch Services, the company responsible for meeting, unloading and cleaning the planes, that period in the afternoon will be intense, but not impossible to deal with.

Rudolph Coye, Aero Dispatch Services

“If we have three flights on the ground, we’ll be having three groups to operate. Each aircraft will have about ten persons on each aircraft so that shouldn’t be any problem…we’ve done our studies, and we have our people in place to do the job. We are intending to have at least twenty-four more employees on the job site to cover operations when we have four flights on the ground.”

But the new flights will bring more than just stress, because while the airport is bracing itself, it stands to make thirty-two fifty a head in taxes on each additional passenger… And businesses in and around the facility are looking forward to the influx of visitors, hoping their profits will take off.

So what’s the overall message to travellers? More arrivals will also mean more departures, so if you want to avoid long lines, have ample time for duty free shopping and catch your flight…get there early.

Janelle Chanona

“And as far as arriving passengers…patience?”

Pablo Espat

“I guess patience. Nowadays, travelling you need to be patient, but we are going to do our best to make sure there’s no delay and if there is a delay, that it is very minimal.”

Espat says during the first few weeks of the additional airline services, he and his team will be able to determine what other measures need to taken to ensure expeditious and efficient service is provided. Reporting for News 5, I am Janelle Chanona.

U.S. Air will begin flying to Belize on November ninth, Air Jamaica on November twenty-first. American Airlines will provide a second flight from Miami beginning December fifteenth and Continental starts flying once a week to Newark on December sixteenth.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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