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Civil Aviation Minister Charles Max Fernandez has informed the Parliament that the Airport Authority has set a number of goals, including the speedy construction of the new Barbuda airport, which is expected to be completed within a few weeks.
The development of the airport is critical for accommodating the high traffic value expected in Barbuda, where people travel in their private jets.
The objective is to make travel more comfortable and convenient for individuals, rather than having them land in Antigua and then take a helicopter or a ferry to reach Barbuda.
The Barbuda airport has faced opposition from Barbudans John Mussington and Jacklyn Frank, who have appealed to the Privy Council to decide if they have sufficient legal standing to pursue a judicial review case against the government on the issue.
Despite this, Fernandez confirmed the government’s plan to establish a satellite office of the Antigua and Barbuda Transport Board on Barbuda to deal with the anticipated increase in traffic on the island and bring Barbudans up to speed with vehicle and personal driver licensing.
Fernandez also revealed plans to reduce waiting times at the VC Bird International Airport terminal by installing cordless kiosks.
These kiosks are expected to cost the government US$4 million but are deemed necessary to accommodate the expected increase in persons travelling to Antigua due to May’s SIDS conference and homeporting operations on the horizon.
The minister expressed hope that recent legislative changes in St Lucia would result in the region regaining a Category 1 safety rating that was downgraded by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2020.
The minister also disclosed that nearly a million passengers (967,979) have already booked to come to Antigua via cruise vessels next year, and there will be 415 ships, excluding the Oasis-class. By the end of April, the depth to accommodate the Oasis-class ships will also be available.
Finally, Fernandez hoped that by 2025, the country’s number of hotel rooms would increase by 1,000.