Cheddie Jagan International Airport is backward
TIMEHRI AIRPORT IS BACKWARD
Many Guyanese have a torrid time at regional airports. And our President has been consistent in condemning the treatment of his nationals by regional immigration authorities.
But his latest jab, this time targeting the in-transit service at Piarco International Airport, is bound to lead to questions about the standards at his country’s own Cheddi Jagan International Airport.
For any Guyanese to criticize the in-transit facilities at Trinidad’s major airport without recognizing the flaws at Timehri is being disingenuous. To use security checks as the basis for criticizing other airports is inexplicable.
Ever since the attacks of September 11, detailed and rigorous security checks have become the norm at all airports. Except if you are a Head of State traveling on diplomatic privileges, no one is exempt from these checks. And as we learnt recently, even ministers of the government traveling on diplomatic passports can now be delayed at foreign airports while detailed checks are run on them.
Body searches are part of the security drill. These are now mandatory. Passengers are forced to take off their belts, their shoes, have their carry-on items scanned, be patted down by a guard, and may even be subject to questioning.
Even in-transit passengers are now required to undergo security checks, whether it is at a major airport in the developed world or at Piarco in Trinidad. It is unreasonable to expect that the authorities in Trinidad are going to allow a passenger deplaning from another country, but with onward connections, to simply board an aircraft on their soil without being subject to security checks.
So for example, a passenger from New York who is in-transit through Piarco to Georgetown, is required to go to an in-transit area and be subject to the normal security checks as any other passenger. This has been the norm for quite sometime.
It does seem however as if someone is suggesting that in-transit passengers should be shuttled straight to an in-transit lounge and not be subject to such checks.
No country is going to follow this line. They are not a party to the security checks done in the foreign country and therefore they are within their rights to ensure that even in-transit passengers are subject to searches. The country through which the passenger is in-transit can be penalized should something be missed by their security officials.
But if Guyana is going to criticize another regional airport about security checks and having in-transit passengers use the departure area, then Guyana needs to get its own house in order.
Guyana does not have an in-transit lounge. So how can Guyana be criticizing another country for having in-transit passengers use the departure area when the same thing happens in Guyana?
A foreign passenger in-transit through Guyana has to not only go through the same security checks as any normal departing passenger, but also has to clear immigration, something that does not happen at Piarco. So in this regard, the Guyanese system is far more arduous than what exists in Trinidad.
There are other areas that would qualify Timehri as being ranked as one of the poorest airports in the region. In the incoming area for instance, trolleys are provided, but passengers can only use these trolleys to move about twenty-five feet, because by the time you get to the door to exit the area, you have to use the designated Red Cap service. There is nothing more comical than this. Why provide baggage trolleys when passengers can only use it from the conveyor belt to the door, then have to utilize the Red Cap service to haul their luggage to their vehicles?
The Timehri International Airport is also the only airport in the Caribbean where when a passenger is finished checking in, his freedom is constrained. The passenger is not allowed to go back out through the doors. He has to say goodbye at the door to the check-in area. What a joke!
In fact, Guyana has a unique situation where the persons who accompany you to the airport to bid you goodbye have to be peering through a glass window because they are not allowed inside the terminal – the only airport in the world where this happens. The terminal is like a large prison with the passengers inside and everyone else outside peering in.
Yet there is enormous space available to make the check-in area larger and to allow friends and relatives to spend some time with their loved ones after checking-in.
Guyana has excellent physical facilities at its airport, facilities that are amongst the best in the Caribbean. The airport is also properly maintained. However, the systems of processing passengers are primitive and pale in comparison to what obtains in other Caribbean countries. To say that the system is arduous would be misleading. A better word to describe our airport system is backward.