New ‘Rider Fee’ jacks up local airfare prices

Belizeans and tourists, and even employees of domestic carriers, Tropic Air and Maya Island Air will have to pay an additional $6 rider fee per departure, effective June 1, 2015.

The announcement came via a Tropic Air release dated May 12th which stated that “the Government of Belize and the Belize Airports Authority are requiring all Belizean airlines to collect a $6 rider fee on all ticket segments.”

While it hasn’t been made public knowledge, today the Reporter discovered that the proceeds from this Rider Fee, and a previous Rider Fee implemented two years ago, will be used to fund the ongoing renovation of the Belize City Municipal Airstrip.
According to President of Tropic Air ,John Grief III, government informed them that it could not afford the upgrade with the current tax base, and so they came up with the idea of the rider fee to defray the cost, or maybe pay the entire cost of the project, over a period of ten years.

When the fee was first implemented, at the start of the renovation project, it was tacked on to each ticket, rather than to each departure. That way, if a passenger buys a one way ticket from the Municipal Airstrip to San Pedro, he would pay the full Rider Fee, while a passenger buying a two-way ticket from the Municipal Airstrip to San Pedro back to the Municipal would pay the same Rider Fee.

“The government left it the way it was thinking that it might be enough. But … years went by and things got more expensive and the scope of the project increased,” says Grief.

The new method of implementation will be by departure, which means that passengers will pay a $6 Rider Fee for each leg of their journey. Grief says it will not affect their foreign clientele, because they are used to paying more for services and will appreciate the upgrade. But it will affect local customers who may decide to commute by bus or boat to avoid the higher costs.

“We see the need for the municipal airport to be upgraded, so it’s a balance,” says Grief.
Currently planes still utilize the old, slick runway, but a new taxi-way at the Municipal Airstrip is almost complete.

When that is done, carriers will use that as the runway while the current landing strip is renovated for use as the main runway. Grief says that with the upgrade taking place, operations at the Municipal Airstrip will be more efficient, safer and better looking.

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