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Tropic Air pressures BTIA to support reopening of International Airport

Posted: Monday, June 8, 2020. 4:29 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The risk of losing vital international service routes, writes Tropic Air CEO Steven Schulte to members of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), outweighs the risk associated with letting in potential cases of COVID-19.

It is the cruel choice Belize’s most significant industry is being asked to make with everything from cruise ships to hotels and associated lines of work, and now the longest-standing Belizean air carrier is leading the charge to see the Philip Goldson International Airport, in Ladyville, reopened as soon as July 1.

Schulte admits that there will not be a rush of tourists – more likely Belizeans seeking a return home – because the process to rebuild air traffic will be slow. In fact, Southwest Airlines has pulled out of committing flights here for the remainder of the year; COPA Airlines will restart in December and United Airlines has slashed its number of weekly flights by two-thirds, from 16 to 5.

But Schulte also writes that if we don’t open sooner rather than later, not only will we continue to lose routes, those losses will become permanent.

He states, “The airlines will only reopen routes (that will lose money for the foreseeable future) where they have a committed partner that wants to start rebuilding from now. They will not invest in a country that doesn’t want to share their risk.” He points to neighbours and competing countries, from Antigua to Jamaica to Costa Rica, announcing reopenings.

Schulte also speaks to a comprehensive reopening plan which is nearing completion and which he says is far beyond what other Caribbean countries are doing. This includes comprehensive testing protocols; thorough screening including proactive contact tracing via an app and questionnaires and needs only a steady supply of reagents for established testing equipment.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow had told reporters on May 29th that the Government’s idea of a negative test for passengers provided 72 hours in advance among other things was objected to by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which the major domestic airlines have denied. Nonetheless, he said if reliable rapid tests or some other form of guaranteed testing was made available, Belize would be prepared to open before the start of the high season in November, and, he promised, no later than then.


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