Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy is denying that the decision to suspend flights between Brazil and Barbados indefinitely was taken because the route was unprofitable.
Instead, Sealy insisted the deferral was to give Brazil time to deal with its domestic challenges.
At the beginning of this month, Sealy announced, without giving a details, that the weekly direct service from Sao Paulo on Gol Airlines would be suspended effective August 28 this year.
He sought to clear up the issue in Parliament today, after Member of Parliament for St Michael South East Santia Bradshaw suggested that the arrangement was terminated “because this route is unprofitable, because the Barbados Government does not have the resources or the foresight to have recognized that the money that it was putting into Brazil needed additional support to ensure that the airlift that was coming out of there gave a return on the investment”.
Sealy acknowledged that the flights were not doing well at times. And responding to Bradshaw’s contention that the plane which could carry 150 passengers sometimes arrived in Barbados with as few as 50, he said: “In the context of developing a new market, there is nothing wrong with that.”
However, the minister maintained that with Brazil challenged with a weakening dollar, the impact of the Zika virus and a political crisis that has since seen President Dilma Rousseff suspended and facing impeachment, Gol’s Chief Commercial Officer Eduardo Bernardes Neto had approached Barbados advising of the suspension of the flights.
“It is not only Barbados; they’ve suspended flights to several destinations because they’re going through a difficult period,” Sealy said.
“You have to bear with them while they work through these issues because ultimately, we still know that that economy will still be quite strong.”
The suspension comes six years after Gol began serving Barbados. Since 2010, the airline has brought 26,766 passengers to the island.
In his contribution, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler applauded Sealy for going after the Brazil market, as he stressed the importance of not depending only on traditional markets like the United Kingdom and United States.