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Airport plan: lessons from the Caribbean

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Comparing the costs: Princess Juliana International Airport in St Maarten cost $117 million (Photograph supplied)

Recently the Bermuda Government announced that it was signing a deal to have a new airport terminal built. On the surface this sounds great.

But when we dig under the surface, the numbers are not quite adding up.

We are supposedly going to give up 30 years of revenue to a Canadian corporation whose first loyalty is to shareholders and Canadians.

There are some comparisons with other islands that must be analysed. Let us have a look at comparative costs of new airports recently completed throughout the region.

• Antigua: V.C. Bird International

Size: 247,570 square feet

When completed: 2015

Total air arrivals 2014: 249,316

Total cost: $98 million

• Bahamas: Lynden Pindling International

Size: 500,000 sq ft

When completed: 2014

Total air arrivals 2014: 924,898

Total costs: $409 million

• Cayman Islands: Owen Roberts International

Size: 207,000 sq ft

Total air arrivals 2014: 382,816

Total cost: $70 million

• St Maarten: Princess Juliana International

Size: 290,000 sq ft

Total air arrivals 2014: 499,920

Total cost: $117 million

• Bermuda projections

Size: unknown

Completion date: unknown

Total air arrivals 2014: 224,246

Total costs: $255 million, as per Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance

Lessons to be learnt

So the question has to be asked, if similar sized airports can be built in the region of $100 million, why is the Bermuda Government looking to spend out nearly triple that amount for a terminal of equal or lesser size?

Most importantly, not one of these islands is giving away their airport lease for 30-plus years to a foreign entity. The funds generated by the airport go back into the coffers to pay off the incurred costs.

So again the question must be asked, why did the One Bermuda Alliance not tender out the airport deal to see what other offers could be made?

Higher annual air arrivals and lower airport construction costs ... hmm, it looks like we have much to learn from our Caribbean cousins.

Comparing the costs: The V.C. Bird International Airport in Antigua cost $98 million (Photograph supplied)
Comparing the costs: Owen Roberts International Airport in the Cayman Islands cost $70 million (Photograph supplied)