LETTER: Our Airport Needs Urgent Help

5 planes at VC Bird Airport

Dear Editor,

When Jamaica realized they had entered the big league in airports (with an s) they did not strut their managers internationally without oversight; instead they engaged the services of Vancouver Airports Authority to help upgrade their efforts from third world presentation to international standards.


Likewise British Virgin Islands is currently upgrading with the help of none other than our own Antiguan Miguel Southwell of Atlanta Airport fame.

Our own VCBIA has been under its own pressure with the new management coming into being almost at the same time as the pandemic, and having to learn on the job, they have been given accolades for their handling of the pandemic, but reality has now struck.

With less revenue and more expenses, most businesses are struggling, no less our airport which has equipment failure in all areas, from carrousels to escalators, mostly occasioned by the purchase of inferior brand equipment bought without proper advice.

Unfortunately the VCBIA management team are not equipped to manage the Chinese built building with its constant issues, and the equipment which will have to be  replaced.

Our airport complains of being under financed, and as a consequence decisions are being made which contravene Security expectations, but this need not be so, because all airports are maintained by fees which are collected for services on the airport,  and on its owned lands within the perimeter fence

Our airport tends to base its revenues on leases and a percentage of margins, whereas this is only a small part of the services which an airport offers.

The many aircraft which arrive and depart Antigua without paying adequately for services received can only be blamed on the wrong focus of our airport management.

The time has come for our government to recognize that an airport is a commercial exercise which is expected to exploit all areas of the economy especially on a small tourist island.

VCBIA needs help, and our Ministry of Aviation needs to wise up to the fact that Airport Management is learned on the job as most airports in the Caribbean have done.

This has been mostly via Air Traffic Control (ATC) and Aeronautical Information Services (AIS) or through Ground Services and Airport Management courses at University and Aviation Educational Services.

If Antigua continues to slide in its services at our one airport, how are we going to control movement and security in an additional airport in Barbuda. Aviation is not an industry to be casual about, and the state accepts great responsibility when it operates an international airport.

Accepting that aviation is a most competitive industry, it behoves the management of any airport to establish an unbiased and competent atmosphere devoid of protection and monopolies.

The time has come for the Ministry of Aviation to recommend that a team from a recognizable aviation organization like Vancouver Airports Authority, or our friends in the Government of Mexico to provide an assistance package to our airport similar to their exercise in Barbados.

Clearly our management team needs help, the shell of the Chinese built airport still looks new and pretty, but already the interior and the equipment and fixtures need maintenance, and in some pieces total replacement. The management must receive support from a knowledgeable and experienced airport management source.

Finally, for the past 20 years VCBIA has failed to implement ICAO Safety standards on all areas of the airport.

There are parts of the airport where the activity would fail any risk assessment inspection, because the airport seems to be ignorant of the ICAO expectation, or alternately as is permitted by developing nations, to Register a Difference with ICAO.


This Registration is required to advise all users of the airport of the Safety Standard replacing the Regulation.

This is the level of help which is needed if our airport is expected to compete on the level of efficiency demanded by International Regulatory Authorities, especially as the Permanent Secretary of Aviation no longer has any authority over the management of the airport.

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  1. The staff of the airport are rude & unprofessional. They act like bullies. The airline workers are kind and competent.

    The airport staff need some professional training. I travel in & out of the airport- in all occurrences I have been met with vexed attitudes. My experiences have included being frisked in public- as a woman this was humiliating. Also, being threatened by not standing in the correct space- rudeness and audacity.

    How so the employees of the airport act like authoritarians & who is training them?

  2. I injured my back 2 years ago when the escalator abruptly stopped halfway up and tossed everyone forward. No one seemed to care about the departing passengers that were injured. Airport staff were unhelpful and rude.

  3. 1. Airport staff unhappy
    2. CEO micro manages and senior managers cannot make ANY decisions.
    3. Top management asking for more money meanwhile the staff is underpaid
    4. Staff values are nonexistent
    5. Everything is BROKEN and no efforts are made to repair. CEO offers lame excuses about getting 3 quotes.
    6. Staff is RUDE
    7. Security people RUDE
    8. No customer service

    Antigua deserves better.

    Our Airport deserves better.

    The management team is $%&king up the product. They are the wrong people for that job. The Airport and the airport brand needs better.

    Government! Gaston! Robin…. do better make a change for better. Wrong people at the top.

  4. ABAA is a joke. ANU has to take a serious look at what is happening here. Security, apron movement, RWY 10 etc. Serious 3rd world crap.

  5. There is an old man in charge of the airport who probably can’t remember the time of day and should have been replaced with a younger qualified individual. He seems to be good at huffing the people’s lands and is one of the richest politicians. I am not against older people as most of us get there at some point. However, a responsible government should know what skills are required to run the country. The people in his constituency keep. Voting for him but maybe this time they will realize it is time for him to be retired.
    We have a government that does not Maintain their properties.
    They got a shining new building from the UPP government, and wait and see if it is shut down for failing to meet ICAO standards.

  6. ABAA stopping new companies from operating at airport so monopolies are maintained. If they would operate correctly allowing and assisting new companies there would be more profit from more fees for rental space, landing take offs, etc. we should do better!!

  7. ABBA is a poorly run organization being led by a CEO who is learning on the job. Management team is just as inept.

    The structure is poorly maintained, airlines are unhappy, visitors are unhappy having to lift carryone up the stairs because the elevators and escalators are not working.

    We need effective leadership at the Nation’s gateway. The Rude incompetent leadership is positioning the institution to be regressive.

    Leadership matters!!! The leadership needs to be replaced with people who have the KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS TO DO THE JOB.

  8. You stole my light. Said I couldn’t take it with me. How can I fly into Antigua with a lighter in my pocket but not out off. I couldn’t smoke a cigarette for almost 12 hours.

  9. I can say that the operations at the airport is highly disappointing. The airport has so many issues at hand that need to be URGENTLY ADDRESSED, and they read as follows.

    1. The escalator and elevators are currently inoperable, with the exception of one that is currently being pushed to its limits, working overtime

    2. Leaking ceilings both at checkin and departures.

    3. Let’s not forget the baggage belt. Poorly maintained and mismanaged. Constantly breaking down several times daily. Once the system is down, it makes loud screeching noises that not only discomforts passengers while checking in, but leaves employees with terrible headaches.

    4. Staff has to endure a hot environment on a daily due to lack of sufficient air conditioning. Especially the area of check-in(Counters 27-50 mostly)

    5. Passengers constantly complaining about the fact that they are unable to hear our poorly maintained PA system, which puts a strain on staff and airlines.

    6. Inoperable and malfunctioning Carousels and jet bridges.

    7. Passengers complain about rude staff, especially at security. The lack of customer service is costly to our industry.

    Overall, the airport is one of the first ports of entry into our beloved country. It should not be dissipated. It should be well maintained, so that our country can continue to develop and generate foreign revenue. A place where not only the passengers enjoy, but for employees to enjoy as well. It is such a shame to see that our recently built airport has gone to such a disastrous place in a small number of years. This needs to be looked into.

  10. It’s amazing that Gov’t would let this point of entry become rundown. The airport has to be a priority!! FIRST IMPRESSIONS by tourists make a difference. If 75% of your GDP is Tourism then common sense tells you that the airport should be maintained.

  11. Nothing is wrong with having the Chinese build a structure, just NEVER allow them to source the materials. No one can expect any government in Antigua to get anything right, no oversight is ever provided on a Chinese funded project, they are always left in absolute control.
    Have a look at the cultural center, the stadium they are falling apart. Now look at the Chinese embassy that is currently under construction, even it’s perimeter walls are superior to the formerly mentioned buildings. Why? Oversight, the Chinese government isn’t going to accept crap. Did anyone expect the airport terminal to be any better? The escalator in the departure hall has been out of service since 2020 or possibly before then, the external doors of departure and arrivals hall’s are falling apart.

  12. !st thing to do is get rid of the Gaston regime. All dem do is steal from us and have pass money under the table deals.

    All a dem need to be brought to justice for all their crimes.

  13. I hope things do change for the airport in Antigua, but for the better and not just for sake of change. I had an interaction on a departure that left a negative feel and am sorry if this happened to other passengers on vacation. As a frequent flyer and business person, I ticketed myself and began to walk away from the the kiosk when as soon as I looked up there were two women starring at me. They were 20 feet away max and then stopped me to ask where I was going ( in a stern manner). I politely told them only to walk to the escalator to be stopped and asked again…At this time I was thinking, what’s up with these authoritarian security asking stupid questions when I’m heading for the security to depart with a ticket and passport in-hand? At that point I was wondering if this was going to be the new protocol? Hopefully not and on my next trip it was if no one cared what I was doing.

    Then there is the security guy walking around outside with a buggy whip. WTF is that about??!! Am I supposed to heel to the Master Security? He tried running me off for standing in the shade while waiting for my ride on two different arrivals. A horrible impression is all I can say…..I hope someone gets trained on management and stop these unnecessary interactions.

  14. People will come here and complain but will not come together and stand up to effect real change.

  15. The entire airport community has NO CONFIDENCE in Euletta Francis and her team.

    Airline association
    ABBA staff

    They need to go! Gaston Brown do something before we have another situation like LIAT. Save the airport before its run to shambles.

    Please Sir. Help.

  16. No Confidence, You’re very bold to write someone’s nome but obscure yours. Bunch of hypocrites that love anything and anyone but your own… Most ppl with comments have never seen the entrance of a plane moreless experience other Airports outside antigua.

  17. Congratulations to the administration and staff of the Antigua and Barbuda Airports Authority (ABAA) on the distinction of V.C. Bird International Airport being awarded the “2022 Caribbean Airport of the Year” by Caribbean Journal (CJ) in its “Caribbean Travel Awards 2022”. Airport CEO V. Euletta Francis who took the reigns only two years ago and the first female to have held this position in the history of the airport, should be commended for her leadership. In bestowing it’s award, the Caribbean Journal writes, “…cultivating a modern, world-class experience that just keeps getting better,…a welcomed departure from the experience at many competing airports.”

    With strained airport financial resources affecting airport administrations and their tenants globally, coupled with and perpetuated by a global pandemic that equally tests the nerves of travelers and airport employees throughout the travel industry, this top travel-industry award is a colossal achievement; particularly in light of the airport team’s most serious business of having to strictly enforce the global safety and security regulations of the airport to ensure the safe travel of all passengers. Congratulations

    • All of us read the article and it was more thanks to the STAFF. The staff is working their r@$$ off with no appreciation.

  18. Miguel Southwell, Global Airport Management and Former Aviation Adjunct Professor.

    An award in no way speak to the quality of management but rather the commitment of the staff. You would have taught this in your classes Mr Professor.

    Perhaps Mr Professor you can teach the current management how to be real managers and help to improve what they are delivering because right now they are failing miserably.

    Cheers to those who actaully still work to make the airport attain recognition and that is the staff.

    Big shame on the management. BIG SHAME

    ABBA Management grade: BIG FAT F

  19. Nelson Mandela once said, “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”

    It is inexplicable that someone would truly believe that Antigua’s prestigious award of the “2022 Caribbean Airport of the Year” by the Caribbean Journal, has nothing to do with its sound leadership, indeed of a talented staff…and in such a complex COVID, heigthened security, and fiscally-challenged environment. A colleague of mine was once asked what it was like to run an airport. His response so well captured its complexity. He said, “… everyone thinks he is an airport expert. The fact is, it is one of the most complex jobs, tantamount to herding cats, with tenants, airlines, and contractors, often with conflicting interests, all jockeying for competive advantage”. Congrats again to the ABAA leadership and staff on this Caribbean Journal distinction – the “2022 Caribbean Airport of the Year”, with special kudos to the distinguished ANTIGUAN CEO Euletta Francis, the first woman to have held this crucial position in the airport’s 80+ year history; you make us proud.

  20. Miguel you should be offering your services to build up what we here are complaining about. Or are you applying for the job?

  21. The tone and language of this letter is quite familiar. If my insight and instincts are correct, it is really sad and tragic that those who became entrapped by the usual diatribe lifted finger to add to the unfortunate comments. You are none the wiser. But as they say, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. This saying holds true for all that I have read and it leaves me to wonder which airport are we speaking about? I am not involved in the operations, but it seems that if all the accusations held even the slightest hint of truth or fact where the safety and security of innocent travelers were in jeopardy, then sanctions would have been brought down on Antigua and Barbuda and our international airport already. Further, the visitors coming to the island in droves would have made use of all their booking engines or travel agents to send in their complaints. Have any one of you, probably a lot of non-travelers seen any? This has only strengthened my suspicion about the identity of the author, who has been on an apparent vengeful, bitter and vindictive mission to stir up trouble and to embarrass the CEO out of frustrtion from not being able to fulfill their own personal business ambitions. The language rings familiar! Clearly some of you have fallen for it and that is sad.
    Is this the same airport that was the first in the region to re-open in the midst of the Covid pandemic? Is this the same VC Bird International Airport that was nominated for two World Travel Awards? And even though someone mentioned it already, the Caribbean Journal named it from among airports in the region, including Jamaica’s, to be the 2022 Caribbean Airport of the Year.
    One person sits in the position of the CEO and clearly none of you including the author knows what is required to run an international airport that must have come with its unique challenges.
    Under the circumstances, there will be disgruntled staff, who are unhappy with what they truly think they deserve. At the same time, I am familiar with staff who go above and beyond to ensure that the airport is a source of pride for many of us.
    It must require a herculean task to keep an international airport, that is the hub of the eastern Caribbean, operating efficiently. I see no threats by the airlines to pull out or sanctions from ECCAA, FAA or ICAO that would warrant anyone of us to seek to bring the reputation and efforts of the management and staff of the airport into disrepute at a time when our country needs revenues for all important services.
    What needs to be fixed ABAA management, get it fixed. What needs to improve keep working on it. But in all that you do, keep making those of us that are inclined to think before speaking and lifting up instead of pulling down, proud of your efforts in making the VC Bird International the standard bearer of airports in the Caribbean.

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