Liat plans to launch services early next year to Georgetown's Ogle airport in Guyana.
Antigua-based Liat currently serves Guyana's Cheddi Jagan International Airport, located about 40km from Georgetown. Liat acting CEO Brian Challenger says the carrier plans to move all of its Guyana flights to Ogle in early 2011, after an upgrade at Ogle is completed that will allow large turboprop operations.
Ogle can now only be accessed by small turboprop aircraft and its runway is too short for Liat's Bombardier Dash 8s. Liat now serves Guyana from Barbados year-round and from Trinidad during the summer season. Challenger says Liat operates one to two Dash 8 Q300 flights per day to Guyana, depending on the time of year, and all these flights will be transferred to Ogle.
Challenger says Ogle is more convenient to passengers flying in and out of Georgetown as it can take up to two hours to drive from Cheddi Jagan to the Guyanese capital. He says moving to Ogle will also improve connections to neighbouring countries because small regional carriers already link Ogle with Suriname and northern Brazil with Cessna Caravans and other small aircraft. Challenger says some passengers are now switching airports in Guyana in order to transfer to Liat flights
Ogle Airport is located only 7km from the centre of Georgetown. Late last year the airport was certified to handle international arrivals and departures. The airport's runway is now in the process of being extended to 4,000ft (1,200m).
Flying to Ogle will also give Liat a competitive advantage because all the flag carriers serving Guyana use Cheddi Jagan, including Caribbean Airlines. Challenger says Caribbean, which serves Guyana from Trinidad with four daily frequencies, will not be able to move its flights to Ogle because it operates Boeing 737s to Guyana.
Challenger says Liat is also planning to launch in July a seasonal service connecting Martinique and Barbados. Challenger says the new route will operate three times per week for an initial period of two months.
Liat already serves Martinique from St. Lucia on a year-round basis. Challenger says the new route is "an attempt to build the market" in Martinique, which has expressed interest in more air services within the region. The Martinique-Barbados route, which no carrier currently operates, could be expanded if the initial Liat trial is successful.
Liat currently serves 22 destinations throughout the Caribbean and Guyana, which is the carrier's only South American destination. Challenger says Suriname is a possible future destination but for now Liat plans to continue to serve Suriname via connections with other carriers at Georgetown.
Liat was also planning to launch services in February to Haiti. Challenger says the launch was cancelled following the devastating earthquake which struck Haiti in January.
"There's still some interest to go into Haiti once the situation stabilises," he says.