Ogle Airport to be renamed despite objections by private operators
Disregarding mounting concerns by local aircraft operators, Government has announced that it will be moving ahead with its decision to rename the Ogle International Airport (OIA); a move it said, it does not need approval for.
Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson on Wednesday said Government will be going ahead with the renaming of the Airport on May 9, ignoring concerns being raised by operators; that the name change will severely affect the competitiveness of the playing field.
Responding to questions raised by journalists at the airport, Patterson said the rebranding will certainly not affect any operation.
“Operators won’t be disadvantaged, the renaming of the airport comes with no additional charges, no additional fees, the longitude and latitude of the airport remains the same. It’s only a name,” he assured.
According to Patterson, Government is seeking to give identification and recognition of honourable Guyanese.
“We have six different races in this country and we have to use whatever means of recognising other persons. We can’t just simply restrict our identifications to Cheddi [Jagan] and Forbes Burnham. If all goes well, the ceremony for renaming will take place on May 9 but if there are any other actions, we will abide by them,” he said.
Speaking also to the media, Public Communication Consultant of the Airport, Kit Nacimento related the issues surrounding the rejection of the injunction against the Airport.
“The injunction brought not by 10 operators, brought by three operators, not brought by NATA, brought by three operators. The major investors in this Airport do not include all of those operators, only three of those operators have any investment in the building of this Airport at all”, he explained.
He continued, “Mr Gouveia for instance has almost $1 billion private investment in developing this airport, 2.2 per cent. The major investment and the major risk in developing the airport has been taken by Correia.” He said the majority of the board and shareholder support the decision.
Meanwhile, the National Air Transport Association during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon reiterated its objection to the rebranding of the facility.
Outraged, the body, which looks after the interest of aircraft owners, flayed Government for moving ahead with a proposal made by President David Granger to have the name changed and even threatened that legal action could be taken against Correia.
Government remains unmoved in its position to have the Airport renamed after Guyana’s first Public Transport Minister Eugene Correia and will be making the big change early next week.
NATA meeting with members of the Press, took a bitter stand against Government and the Correia Group of Companies.
Annette Arjoon-Martins of Air Service Limited (ASL) said the Airport was incorporated back in 2000 with five shareholders, each holding 20 per cent shares. According to her, they all served as Directors of the company.
“Fifteen years later through a series of manipulations by the Chairman, Mr Michael Correia, the Correia Group of Companies which he also heads now own 67 per cent of the shares in this company. As a result, Ogle Inc has become a member of the Correia Group of companies.”
She said of the original five founding Directors, only two were allowed to remain. More than that, five of the seven Directors of OAI currently are either family or associates of the Correia group, which now controls everything at the Airport, Arjoon-Martins said.
“It was never the intention of the five founding shareholders/Directors that one of the aircraft operators should have control at the Airport. It was also never the intention of the Government of Guyana when they signed the lease agreement with OIA in 2000 that one single operator would control the airport in 2016. It should be noted that Government had used the word “fair and equitable access” in this master lease no less than 40 times.”
The operators believe that adding the Correia name to the Airport could give the representing the private operators who had expressed worry over the name change. It was the President who had suggested the name change just after taking office.
Last year when the issue first surfaced, President Granger met with a group That proposal met strong objections from most of the airline operators who work out of the Ogle Airport.
They pointed to the fact that one of the airlines at Ogle, Trans Guyana, is owned by the Correia Group and that group’s owner is already the Chairman of the Airport.