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…CEO, Dr. Abrams says progress slow but he’s hopeful
Owner and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Guyana Airways Corporation Inc., Dr. Colin Abrams, is in talks with the Government about the airways beginning operations in the country after previous attempts to do so under the former administration were shot down.
On Friday, on the online programme, In Perspective Show, Dr. Abrams detailed the financial challenges he was left to face after the former Administration ‘pulled the rug’ from under Company and its intention to become a flag carrier. There was also much contention over the name ‘Guyana Airways’.
Dr. Abrams, a Guyanese by birth, is a retired Delta Airlines pilot with 45 years of experience in aviation. He has a PhD in Aviation Management and obtained every Major License offered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States.
He is also a Naturapathic Physician who specialises in saving limbs from amputation. He retired early, leaving a 6-figure paying job, and invested the savings from his retirement plan into the vision for the Airlines in Guyana.
MOVING WITH A VISION
In 2016, Dr. Abrams notified the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) that Guyana Airways Corporation Inc. was now owned and operated by him and he was interested in entering the Guyanese market. The goal was to facilitate flights around the Caribbean and to North America.
The vision was also to have the airlines be primarily a cargo airline carrying passengers because the position was that the bulk of money in aviation was to be made from the transport of cargo. This, Dr. Abrams predicted, would have resulted in lower airfares.
As things progressed, the Company established itself at Barrack Street, Kingston, Georgetown. The plan was to start operations by 2019 from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) with flights destined to Havana, Port of Spain, Bridgetown, and the US.
Discussions continued periodically until 2018. “Our entire Board of Directors, we met with the Civil Aviation Authority in Guyana. They promised to work hand-in-hand with us so we could get the airline ‘off the ground’ so to speak. While we were doing our due diligence…we spent a lot of money to get the airline up and running and the snag that we got involved with is the Government decided to pull our registration,” Dr. Abrams said.
He went on to explain that this impacted the company financially because it had spent money on attorneys to ensure that the name ‘Guyana Airways’ was available for use. Dr. Abrams said that the correct procedure was followed throughout whereby the company was registered and incorporated in Guyana. He reminded that there was a six-month grace period for objections from the public to any name chosen and no such objections were raised during the period.
He noted, too, that by that point, the Company had interacted with GO-Invest and did its due diligence; paid taxes to import items to set up an office space; hired staff and more.
Dr. Abrams said: “So, three years later, while we’re in our expensive building, paying salaries, hiring flight attendants, pilots and the whole works, then we hear ‘well, you can’t use that name’.”
A High Court case followed which the Company won. It cleared the way for the airline to continue its efforts towards operations but ordered the re-registration of its name because it was de-registered by the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority which held the position that the name was identical to that of the former state-owned Guyana Airways.
While the litigation process was ongoing, the Company was still paying for planes it had leased to soon commence flights.
However, Dr. Abrams claimed that the head of the GCAA nonetheless took to the media to state that the Airways did not meet several requirements. “There was obviously some concerted effort to stop the operations,” he said.
GOVERNMENT DOES NOT OWN THE NAME ‘GUYANA’
Dr. Abrams defended his position that the name ‘Guyana’ does not belong to the Government of Guyana, similarly to how the name ‘America’ does not belong to the United States Government. For case in point, he highlighted that American Airlines and US Air are not US-owned but privately-owned carriers.
“So, this whole thing about ‘who does he think he is, coming to this country using our name and making money off of it’…it’s the big picture, they don’t have a vision for the big picture,” Dr. Abrams said.
The CEO said that the Company has since commenced talks with the current Government but progression is stalled, in part due to COVID-19. He said: “Where we are, it’s a stalled process and it looks like we’re getting nowhere fast…trying to do business in Guyana, big business in Guyana, it’s kind of difficult.”
Meanwhile, on May 22, 2021, at the Inaugural Virtual Diaspora Conference hosted by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Senior Minister with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh stated that the Government has no current interest in a state-owned airline.
“It is not currently on the agenda to establish a state-owned airline,” he said, noting that COVID-19 has negatively impacted the operations of several state carriers such as LIAT.
Dr. Singh added: “We are pushing aggressively to attract more international airlines to come to Guyana and we are actually seeing the results of that already, so at a time when airlines are closing down their operations and reducing routes, we are seeing international airlines actually expressing an interest to come to Guyana.”
On the other hand, because of his experiences, Dr. Abrams said that he has since decided that he will no longer invest his own money into Guyana but would only do so through investors.