Soaring Hope for Sector
November 15th, 2022
“We think that by July 2023, we should reach about 75% or 80% of international passengers returning to Trinidad and eventually, 100% by December.”
“The return of airlines has been gradual,” said Emmanuel Baah, Deputy General Manager – Estate Planning and Business Development, Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (AATT). Speaking about developments after the pandemic’s lockdowns, Mr. Baah stated“ in May 2022, we’ve only returned to about 63% of international passenger arrivals compared to 2019 (pre-pandemic levels). We think that by July 2023, we should reach about 75% or 80% of international passengers returning to Trinidad and eventually, 100% by December.”
Resilience in a pandemic
Despite the pandemic, Piarco International Airport is recognised by Skytrax as the leading airport in the Caribbean. A true game changer, Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL ) has received MAX aircraft – a new aircraft technology that will allow them to fly long distances at a competitive price. AATT is also working to expand its food and beverage offerings. Another game changer is a new service launched here by KLM (known for making wise business decisions) on 16 October 2021.
Opportunity for investment
Asked what he thought could be done to attract investors, Baah proudly stated, “In May, Cabinet made a decision to approve the implementation of AATT’s Strategic Land Use Plan through the setting up of a multidisciplinary team that would be involved in pushing for the commercialisation of airport lands through a public expression of interest process.” The plan includes maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities, a package for an air transport hub, air cargo warehouses and related services. “If it is allowed to run, it could lead to more investment and job creation,” said Baah.
Propelling the industry
But what legislation or policy could be put in place to truly propel the industry forward? Baah shared, “In 2021, CARICOM signed a Multilateral Air Services Agreement (MASA) that has the potential to bring down the cost of travel in the region because it will allow, for example, a country to give rights to another airline to operate on its domestic route or if there is a CARICOM country that has an airline as its designated carrier, all CARICOM countries have to give it the same rights.”
Asked what role technology played in moving the industry forward, Baah explained that many benefits are coming from technology, especially in aircraft design. “It is allowing smaller aircraft to fly longer distances so that opens up opportunities for T&T as we are so far south in the Caribbean.” There continues to be a lot of interest in health, safety and sanitation matters. So, the trend towards touchless travel is going to continue well beyond 2023. “There are lots of technologies out there that can facilitate faster travel and touchless travel.”
Future of travel
Baah believes that we are going to continue to see some positive returns to passenger traffic by air. “We think that there will be a lot of high travel in December 2022 and that is going to continue into Carnival 2023 for T&T. We see a very solid return to growth in aviation when it comes to international travel.” Also, “2023 will see the start of construction of an airport hotel and in Tobago, we should see continued work on the new terminal being built.”
Additionally, construction of the largest solar park system in the country is being done at the Piarco International Airport. It is made possible by a TT$12 million European Union grant which was given to assist the country with meeting its Sustainable Development Goals.