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New air link

Mike King

New air link

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BARBADOS WILL SOON have an airline link-up with Panama.And according to Minister of International Business and Transport, George Hutson, this will result in benefits for both countries.Speaking at St Bartholomew’s Church yesterday morning after attending the 18th anniversary service of Caribbean Aircraft Handling, Hutson said an air services agreement was being negotiated with Copa Airlines.Hutson said it would not be long before Government signed the agreement which would open up the Central American routes.Copa Airlines is an airline based in Panama City, Panama, and serves as Panama’s flag carrier.45 destinationsIts main base of operations is Tocumen International Airport, from where it operates approximately 148 daily scheduled flights to 45 destinations in 24 countries in North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.The link-up could be a direct flight from Panama or could be via Trinidad & Tobago which is serviced by Copa Airlines.“It certainly creates a win-win situation because Barbados gets additional business. From a Panama perspective, we will open up their routes into the United Kingdom so a lot of European tourists will be able to get to Panama via Barbados,” he said.Just last month Barbados established a new service to São Paulo, with GOL, a low-cost, low-fare airline which offers about 800 daily flights to 61 destinations, connecting cities in Brazil.Hutson said he was optimistic that GOL would bring additional numbers to the country.“We at the airport have seen slight increases in the number of passengers going through the airport over the first six months of this year. That speaks well.Low season“We are hoping that the traffic coming from Brazil will kick off because that is coming during the low season for the tourism product.”Hutson told the congregation that in 2007 and 2008, more than two million passengers came through the Grantley Adams International Airport in each year. Last year there was a bit of a slump, but Hutson said he was heartened by the January to June 2010 statistics which showed 1 005 160 passengers coming through the airport.“After the decline in 2009, there has been a slight recovery in passenger traffic in the first half of this year,” he said.Hutson praised Caribbean Aircraft Handling, which was established in June 1992, and has responsibility for passenger checking, loading and off-loading bags, cargo, mail, security, flight dispatch, aircraft cleaning, maintenance and fuelling of aircraft.Hutson also spoke about the importance of customer service.