The Antigua and Barbuda government is defending the decision to allow for a Antigua Airways to operate flights from West Africa directly to the Caribbean island saying the investors will be engaged in a wet lease “which means all that is required is to have the financial resources to lease not only the plane but all of the supporting personnel.”Antigua Airways is to begin operations next month and a formal agreement was signed between the government and Nigerian publishing and printing firm, Marvelous Mike Press Limited, last month.
Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister Gaston Browne told legislators he is confident that the new airline will get a handling company to assist them and that they have been getting technical expertise from LIAT based in St. John’s.
“It is a wet lease…it will start as charter service,” Browne said, adding that his administration “has not made any money available to Antigua Airways.
“What we did do is to list it as a CIP (Citizen by Investment Program) project and one in which we have allocated up to ten CIP files and if and when they are subscribed then we will get I believe about 20 percent of the shares”.
Under the CIP program, Antigua and Barbuda provides citizenship to foreign investors who make a significant contribution to the socio-economic development of the island. The CIP or CBI also exists in other Caribbean countries.“My understanding is that the service will start as a charter service, they are also trying to have a sustaining relationship with LIAT 2020 when we would have operationalized LIAT 2020 and we have been told so far that the arrangements to lease the plane and to start operating are on target,” Browne said.A Cabinet statement last month had indicated “the firm is hoping to collaborate with LIAT, flying passengers north and south of Antigua who have come from West Africa on Antigua Airways.”Browne told Parliament that the company running the airline is registered to operate in Antigua.Last month, Tourism Minister Charles Max Fernandez said the third week in October is the tentative date for the first flight and there may be about three flights per week.
Antigua Airways plans to operate a Boeing 767-300ER in a 16-business and 251- economy seating configuration.