According to Tropic Air and Maya Island Air, passenger arrivals at the Philip Goldson International Airport are greater than in 1996. The increase in arrivals is not without problems. TACA's last afternoon flight (which is usually late) and Continental's 2nd flight arrive at the same time. Passenger's complained that getting through Customs took nearly an hour. In a telephone interview with the Customs Department at International Airport, a spokesman said that Customs is not the problem. The problem is that some of the luggage is not arriving with the passengers, and the arrival area is very crowded with both planes arriving at the same time. In addition, one crew of baggage handlers are now trying to unload two planes; plus, the passenger arrival area is under construction and the baggage carousel has been removed which delays the arrival of baggage into the terminal.
Customs, Immigration and the baggage handlers have been working on an extended schedule for some time now. All services are available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. This has been helpful with processing the late afternoon arrivals, but it creates a bottleneck for the airlines. Since the San Pedro runway has night lighting, flights can arrive until 6:20 p.m. daily. The flights from International to San Pedro take about 20 minutes, so late afternoon activity has been hectic. Tropic Air reported that they have carried 200 passengers an afternoon from International since the 24th of December. According to Maya Island Air, the biggest problem with the late arrivals (at International) is the congestion of passengers getting through immigration and customs. A hour's delay means that passengers to southern Belize will have to overnight in Belize City. After 4:15 p.m. the southern routes, except Dangriga are closed due to darkness and unlighted landing strips.
On December 26th, San Pedro had a power failure a few minutes after 6 p.m. The area from the airstrip south was without electricity, and six planes were enroute to San Pedro from International. The taxi drivers quickly moved their vehicles to the end of the field and turned on their lights to illuminate the strip for the planes to land. Plans are underway for a generator to operate the lighting in the event of future outages.
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