Five jet bridges, a rehabilitated runway, and an upgrade to several departure gates, are among Government’s major expansion plan for the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA).
Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds outlined the plan today, though not providing a timeline for completion of the project.
Delivering the feature address at the airport’s 80th anniversary logo launch this morning, Symmonds said Barbados had one of the best airport facilities in the world therefore the country should know its worth and capitalize on it.
Warning that there was no room for complacency, he said the time had come for Government to have a “candid heart-to-heart talk” with airport officials and other stakeholders in an effort to upgrade the facility, which started commercial operations back in 1938.
In that regard, said Symmonds, a carefully selected board “based on the possession of a number of skills and not the basis of any partisan political connection”, led by veteran broadcaster Vic Fernandes, and approved on July 12, had been put in place to lead the upgrade project based on a “three-pronged mandate”.
“The first one is to simply deliver the very best possible visitor experience that can be found anywhere in the Eastern Caribbean. Secondly, the board will be mandated to maximize the commercial potential of this airport. And last but by no means least, to maintain the highest security and safety standards that we can possibly attain,” he said.
Symmonds said the new board would embark on a “runway rehabilitation programme” in November, pointing out that the lifespan of an airport runway should be between ten and 15 years and Barbados’ 11,000 feet of runway was at “a mature stage”, which required urgent steps to redevelop it.
He gave the assurance that while work would begin at the start of the busy winter tourist season, every effort would be made not to interrupt the smooth flow of passengers.
“In addition to that the new board will be charged with the expansion of the regional lounge capacity . . . in a similar vein we have to upgrade Gate 14 and beyond,” Symmonds said.
Adding that greater emphasis would be placed on making Barbados fully accessible to the disabled, the Minister of Tourism, whose Barbados Labour Party Government was swept to power in the May 24 general elections, which resulted in the ouster of the Democratic Labour Party-led regime, said “therefore it means we have got to stop procrastinating on the question of air bridges”.
“In that regard we are going to have to take a relook at the need to have a new mezzanine floor created so as to accommodate five air bridges,” the minister announced.
He said it was also critical that the airport maximizes its revenue intake through the expansion of the retail space and establishment of new cargo space.
“So there is much useful work to be done with respect to the physical capacity of this airport and I am anxiously looking forward to working with this new board who I am holding accountable from today onwards on thinking out of the box, thinking creatively and working energetically towards holding Government’s hand in partnership that will make these things come to life as soon as possible,” said Symmonds, while reiterating that he would be meeting with Prime Minister Mia Mottley and all airport staff next Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss a range of issues.
Adding that the pilot project of the passport information kiosks would begin next Monday in time for the increasingly busy Crop Over festivities, Symmonds said this was a strategic move to determine what load it could take and tweaks would be needed.
He also pointed out that Government would be moving ahead with a planned civil aviation training school that was approved back in 2006 but did not see the light of day.
This facility, he said, would be responsible for training, examination and invigilation in several areas related to aviation.