REAL NEWS-An aircraft representing Antigua Airways arrived at the V.C. Bird International Airport on Tuesday, November 1, Independence Day, as scheduled – but not without some confusion, according to sources.
REAL News correspondent George Wehner says the aircraft landed here following an estimated 12-hour chartered flight, although not directly from Lagos, as had been advertised.
Wehner explains the change, reportedly based on the type and year of the carrier.
A source describes the arrival of the aircraft and its passengers as a complete chaotic mess at the airport. Reportedly, the flight carried over 150 passengers, most of whom are alleged to be students.
According to several sources, most of the Nigerians had no accommodation in place prior to arrival. Therefore, it is alleged, several persons at the airport were designated to call around and find places for the passengers to stay.
Wehner reports that some of them are now boarding at the Paige Pond Country Inn in Buckleys, while others have been placed in various establishments around the island.
It is said that most of them have no relatives here and were flown to Antigua and Barbuda – free of cost – “to pack the plane.”
Our News Department understands that the visitors are having to split the cost of accommodations; and it is alleged that four to six adults are sharing a room.
“Our ancestors were packed in [the cargo hold] of slave ships hundreds of years ago; now, Independence Day, our Nigerian brothers are packed in a little room,” is one person’s comment on the situation.
Another resident says she wonders what the Nigerians were told, in the first place, to cause them to take the flight here.
Meanwhile, residents are asking how the visitors could have been granted visas on arrival when they had no accommodations booked and appear to be without funds to support their alleged 30-day stay here.
Further, as suspicions grow about the airline’s principals, questions continue to be asked about what was brought in the cargo compartment of the airplane.
Although the name “Antigua Airways” was branded on the body of the vessel, the tail of the airplane was not painted in the colors of the Antigua and Barbuda flag, as shown in photographs prior to its arrival.
But other sources explain that the craft is not owned by Antigua Airways, but was leased from the aviation company EuroAtlantic Airways.
Notwithstanding, it landed to a grand water-cannon salute, followed by a short ceremony attended by Minister of Tourism Charles “Max” Fernandez, Foreign Affairs Minister Paul Chet Greene, and other officials.
Antigua Airways is expected to operate from the old V.C. Bird International terminal and utilize the former British Airways check-in counter and offices.
Wehner says he finds this situation appalling and claims that the office space – described as a construction zone – is in shambles.