The Access Division has confirmed that is it currently in negotiations with both FlyMontserrat and SVG Air to extend the Air Ticket Subsidy for the period April 2021 – June 2021. However, the airlines are asking for more financial support than what they currently receive to maintain operations here.
Discover Montserrat reported on Wednesday that the special fares of XCD 170 one-way had ended March 31, 2021 and both airlines had returned to their old fares, which cost more than XCD 300 one-way.
Premier Joseph Farrell, commented on our social media post on Thursday night stating that his Cabinet had approved the three-month extension of the subsidy. “This is the window we have until the 2021/22 budget is passed,” the premier stated.
However, to date, neither airline has adjusted their rates online. The matter first came to our attention from frequent travellers when they booked tickets to come home and found the rates had increased. The subsidised rates had been in effect from October 2020 after the Jaden Sun ferry service was terminated.
CEO of FlyMontserrat, Captain Nigel Harris said “negotiations are taking place with the access department on how to have an air service that is reliable, if necessary flying with one or two passengers, without causing enormous losses to the airlines. This has been done to maintain service successfully over 11 years by successive governments working with the airlines, and particularly when there was no ferry in 2016, there was both a seat subsidy and a seat guarantee to cover any loss.”
Under the current agreement, both FlyMontserrat and SVG Air receive XCD 300 per a roundtrip fare booked between Montserrat and Antigua. This is in addition to the XCD 18,000 per month for operational expenses that both airlines receive. Now, according to government officials, they want that amount operational fee increased.
Harris said the subsidy that is needed to cover the losses “is a small fraction of what would have been spent on the ferry for the period, and substantial savings would be made in subsidy requirements. When the freight ferry runs or when the helicopter is flying that the “old” system of covering the cost of the service has been employed but does not appear to have been used to calculate the subsidy/fares for the fixed wing airlines. FlyMontserrat remains as ever dedicated to serve the access needs of Montserrat, whilst remaining an independent private sector company.”
Premier Farrell appears to be unwilling to consider the additional support, stating in his Facebook comment “Under no circumstance will any business entity hold this country at ransom.”