A water cannon welcome and scores of people standing outside the airport perimeter fence provided a warm Antigua and Barbuda welcome for the inaugural flight of Antigua Airways from Lagos, Nigeria in Africa, to Antigua.
Senior government officials as well as officials from the Antigua and Barbuda Airport Authority, the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority were on hand to greet the passengers as they entered the terminal building.
Foreign Affairs Minister, E. P. Chet Greene, said the arrival of the flight marked the fulfillment of a promise made by his government several years ago when it gave a commitment to reach out in a positive way to establish cultural and commercial ties with the African continent, the ancestral home for approximately eighty percent of the population.
“This promise delivered today, represents an expansion and at the same time, a diversification of the Antigua and Barbuda economy.
“We are now looking at, in a real way, trade with Africa; not only in tourism but in goods and services. We are looking at reconnecting our people with the African mainland, the motherland with the diaspora here in the Caribbean,” he stated.
He added that the flight now represents a real potential of further ties not just with Antigua and Barbuda but with the rest of the region.
Tourism Minister Charles Max Fernandez thanked the owners of the airline for staying the course by fulfilling the goal of having Antigua and Barbuda serve as the Caribbean hub for the airline. According to the minister several other Caribbean territories have been making overtures to the airline’s owners suggesting their countries as hubs.
Fernandez noted that it was fitting that the inaugural flight should arrive on the day Antigua and Barbuda was celebrating its 41st anniversary of Independence. He said it was a fitting tribute. “The US and the UK have been our main source markets for tourism, however, with Nigeria having a population of over two hundred million people that has the potential to one day become the number one source market for tourism,” he suggested.
He called on the airline’s officials to continue with the flights noting that the government would do its part to ensure the success of the venture.
Also addressing the ceremony was the airline’s Chief Executive Officer, Eugenio Fernandes, who said it is their intention to continue the flights into the future, but the airline is still awaiting permission from the regulators in order to do commercial flights.
Over one hundred passengers arrived aboard the flight some of whom will stay here and return to Nigeria in six days; time while the others will take connecting flights to other Caribbean destinations.