The Government of Antigua and Barbuda on Monday disclosed that it was in talks with Air Peace to provide connectivity to West Africa, after suspending chartered flights by Antigua Airways.
Speaking during a recent post-cabinet press briefing, the Antigua and Barbuda Information Minister, Melford Nicholas, said the government was still committed to establishing commercial air routes between West Africa out of Nigeria to Antigua to promote tourism, commerce and culture.
“We have had engagements with an established airline, Air Peace, and we are still continuing those discussions, and in the likelihood, we are able to conclude those negotiations, we would see the establishment of a route between us and West Africa,” he said.
A statement by Ch-aviation noted that Air Peace was not immediately available for comment.
Explaining why Antigua Airways charters had been suspended, Nicolas said there was a dubious attempt by a third party to imitate the operation.
“What has transpired since is that the efforts of Antigua Airways were imitated by another operator who would have arranged another charter without the knowledge of the Antigua and Barbuda government,” he said.
“Based on intelligence reports, the objective of that other charter was to use Antigua as a stepping stone for people planning to transit to South America from where they planned to illegally cross the southern border of the United States.
“That was clearly not the objective or intention of the government when establishing this air route,” he explained.
According to the Antigua Observer, an Abuja-based tour operator, FastFlyLinks Travel & Tours, had copied Antigua Airways’ charter model to advertise flights from West Africa to Antigua and Barbuda for USD5,000 per person.
It stated, “Antigua Airways, a virtual carrier is a private-public partnership between Nigerian online travel agency Wakanow, African aviation services provider, Aerostatus and Nigerian printing and publishing firm, Marvelous Mike Press Limited.
“The Antigua & Barbuda government owns 20 per cent by supporting the airline through the Eastern Caribbean Commonwealth state’s Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), which provides citizenship to foreign investors, who significantly contribute to the island’s socio-economic development.
“Antigua Airways chartered a B767-300(ER) from Portugal’s euroAtlantic Airways (YU, Lisbon) in November, flying under “Antigua Airways operated by euroAtlantic Airways.”
Article first published on the Punch Website