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KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) — The Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines (CAL) is to operate scheduled flights between the Piarco International Airport and the recently opened Argyle International Airport (AIA) in St Vincent, it has been officially announced.

AIA spokesperson Tabia Matthews, in a brief press statement said that the scheduled flights will operate on Fridays and Sundays and will offer passengers “connections to their other North American destinations”.

She could not say what type of aircraft will be used to provide the service, but CAL has been using its fleet of ATRs on its Barbados, St Lucia routes.

Matthews said that CAL has completed its operational setup and is currently conducting check-in, ticketing and baggage tests.

“Additionally, CAL is working towards opening a Cuban gateway, which will benefit a wide range of travellers, including students who are studying in Cuba. CAL’s cargo service is also expected to commence soon. The AIA team takes this opportunity to officially welcome Caribbean Airlines on board,” Matthews said.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves had, in the past, objected to CAL flying the same route as the regional airline, LIAT, because of the fuel subsidy that Port of Spain gave to the state-owned airline. But the subsidy was removed after LIAT secured a legal opinion that it contravened the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Treaty.

Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Tourism Minister Cecil “Ces” McKie, said the island had been “fairly successful” in the discussions with international airlines to fly into the AIA, which opened on February 14 this year.

Responding to a question from Opposition Leader Godwin Friday as to which international airlines will be operating and the destinations they will serve, McKie said that over the past few years the government has been negotiating with airlines with a view to have them serving the island directly from international destinations.

“We have been fairly successful with these discussions and negotiations but I think that we are all aware of the fact that we cannot be premature in terms of our announcements of airlines coming to the destination, whether it be regular flights or otherwise. We have to make sure that we dot the I’s and cross the T’s and that’s what we will be doing,” McKie told lawmakers.

He said the Rallph Gonsalves government would be able to announce soon, arrangements with charters and other services for people coming here for the Carnival celebrations.

The tourism minister said the government has had discussions with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Thomas Cook and Titan airlines from the United Kingdom. From Canada, they have had talks with Air Canada, West Jest, and Transat. In terms of airlines from the United States, the government has spoken with Dynamic Airlines, Swift Air, Miami Air, JetBlue, Caribbean Airlines, American Airlines and Easy Sky.

He said the Transport Security Administration of the United States, which has visited AIA has done the necessary briefings with the management of the airport.

“They have already begun to put things in place to correct some of these shortcomings, that … have been pointed out and, as I understand it, within 45 days, we should receive the report from them,” he said, adding that the government is also working along with airlines to receive the necessary clearance, if applicable, for them to fly directly to the destination “in terms of regular flights”.

McKie said his government is in discussions with various private entities about arranging charters.

“Preferably, we would like such arrangements to be organised by private entities. But, they also recognise the challenges and the difficulties, first to get aircraft and also the cost that these aircraft come at. And so, therefore, we are working closely with them to see if we can collaborate in any way, if we can offer support in any way, but, as it is now, the ministry is basically leading the charge in getting these charters in place.”

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