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Jun 1, 2020

Further Delay of Airport Reopening is Killing Local Airlines

The Philip Goldson International Airport will not resume operations to allow for the arrival of flights from other countries on the initially scheduled July first timeline.  That announcement was made on Friday by Prime Minister Dean Barrow who informed that government had to revisit its position at the eleventh hour based on recommendations made by the International Air Travel Association.  We will have more on IATA a little later in our newscast, but tonight the local airline industry continues to take a significant hit from losses due to a reduction in domestic flights.  As we have reported, Tropic Air has laid off as many as two hundred and twenty employees and is only functioning at two percent of its capacity when compared to the same period in 2019.  While additional layoffs seem inevitable, many questions are being asked by stakeholders in the aviation sector, including the massive cost of not reopening the airport as previously scheduled.  Late this evening, News Five spoke with Ravei Nunez, Tropic Air’s Deputy Director of Operations.

 

Ravei Nunez

Ravei Nunez, Dep. Dir. Operations, Tropic Air

“Now in terms of the financial impact that it is having on both pilots, the aviation industry and tourism on a whole, it’s self-evident.  You walk around the streets and you see taxis parked that have not been parked before.  I work at Tropic Air and we’ve lost more than or close to fifty percent of our employees.  The employees who remain on staff have had their salaries reduced.  B.T.L., I believe, has already reduced salaries for its staff.  So in terms of the immediate impact, yes, the aviation industry and tourism on a whole feels it immediately, but there has to be some accounting for the policies that are put in place.  At some point, government employees will have their salaries cut, at some point government employees may have to be reduced in terms of numbers.  So we don’t know if a thorough conversation is being had about the long-term effects of the policies that we have in place.  I would just say that we need to look at this issue as yes, we had the coronavirus situation, the COVID-19 situation.  We need to look closely at the accounting for the evolving crisis that’s evolving before our very eyes, the crisis that’s resulting from the policies that we chose to impose, the procedures that we chose to follow in dealing with that crisis.  At some point we will open up, it’s not an if, but or maybe.  We will have to open up, the finances dictate that we will have to.  At that point we will have to look back and say, were we right in what we did?  Did we open up too early or did we open up too late and what’s the cost of opening up too late.  At the moment it seems that we just want to maintain a COVID-free Belize and that’s a worthy objective but that comes at a heavy, heavy price and that needs to be aired out and that needs to be discussed because all Belizeans are paying the price for that.”


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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