St Vincent Opens New Multi-Million Dollar Argyle International Airport

St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Argyle International Airport in the east of St. Vincent was officially opened on the evening of February 13th, 2017, with a flag-raising ceremony in the presence of a large crowd of Vincentians, Caribbean leaders and International representatives.
In his official address, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that the facility is “a symbol … a metaphor of what is possible in us.”
“Do not ever allow any people, any nation to impose on us limitations to our imagination,” he told the large crowd that turned out to see the new airport, first announced in 2005. The airport was built at a cost of some EC$700 million (US$259 million), and was completed six years behind schedule. It has also added some EC$400 million to the island’s EC$1.6 billion national debt.
The flag-raising was one of two events to mark the official opening of the Argyle International Airport, which began commercial operations on Tuesday, February 14 with scheduled flights by intra-regional carriers, LIAT and Grenadine Air Alliance.
Two international chartered flights operated by Dynamic Airways from the USA and Easy Sky from Honduras were the first international flights to land at the new airport with passengers from New York and Cuba respectively. Both carriers have committed to continued regular service to St. Vincent.
In his address, Dr. Gonsalves reiterated that the events of the two days were a national celebration, worthy of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, saying “as Prime Minister, I want to thank the nations and institutions that contributed to the successful completion of the airport.”
He thanked the CARICOM Development Fund, which, of its own resources and other resources from Turkey, contributed to the development of the airport. Dr. Gonsalves also thanked the Government and the people of Taiwan, which donated the terminal building. He recognised three other major partners, Venezuela, Cuba and Trinidad & Tobago, who were featured during Tuesday’s celebratory rally.
Dr. Gonsalves paid a special tribute to the memory of his “dear friend and brother”, the late Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, Patrick Manning. He also used the ceremony to recognise other representatives of countries that assisted with the airport, namely Austria, Mexico, Turkey, Libya, Georgia and Iran.
“We have had contributions from countries; some of them do not have diplomatic relations with one another. And part of the creativity and skill of the Government was to bring all these countries together to assist the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Dr Gonsalves stated.
The Prime Minister also thanked the governments of Britain, Canada and the United States of America, whose respective export credit guarantee systems assisted “with certain items of equipment which we purchased, but, because of the guarantee systems we got them on better interest terms.”
Construction of Argyle was a major undertaking which involved moving three mountains, spanning a river and filling two valleys to level the site,” said Glenroy Beache of the St. Vincent & The Grenadines Tourism Authority.
The runway is 9,000 feet long and 250 feet wide and can receive large aircraft. The 171,000-square-foot terminal building has been designed to process 1.5 million passengers annually and 800 people an hour at peak. Stayover arrivals in St. Vincent and the Grenadines totalled about 65,000 in 2016.
Argyle International Airport is the second solar-powered airport in the Caribbean, following V.C. Bird Airport in Antigua. Facilities include two jet bridges, restaurants, bars and retail shops.
Beache described the airport as a “game-changer for the region, not only for opening up St. Vincent to international travellers but also for enabling the diaspora outside the Caribbean to travel home more easily.”
The former E. T. Joshua Airport will be demolished and plans call for development of a new city called New Kingston to be built on the site.