Air Services Limited Review
Hunting for a Good Flight Operator
Small planes scare many people in the US where we have fairly strict regulation of both aircraft and airspace. It can be assumed that, in non-developed nations, these things fall to the back burner and Guyana is no exception – although it is improving.
Thus, it was important to us to pick a tour operator that had an aircraft that would take us further than the scene of the crash. When researching from afar, it’s hard to know exactly what you’re dealing with, so hopefully our experience can help.
Out of all the flight operators, Air Services Limited has one of the more impressive websites showing off their fleet and large crew, all dressed in traditional pilot’s uniforms–whether qualified or not, it definitely reassured me.
We found out that Air Services Limited organizes trips to Kaieteur Falls on Saturdays and Sundays for just $145. You can get more info on their website: http://www.aslgy.com/ or by emailing email@example.com. You’ll want to contact them to confirm the dates and prices.
Making a reservation
It’s a pain in the ass, but the only way you can confirm your seat on a flight is to go out to Ogle airport and pay cash in person. The trip from downtown takes 15-20 mins and should cost you only 1000 GYD ($5 US), but expect to pay up to double depending on how much your cab driver thinks he can milk you for.
When we took the trip out to Ogle Airport, we felt better and better about going with them as their operation looked more legit by the second.
The big blue hangar below (with the red dot) is all Air Service Limited’s–a rather large facility!
When we arrived, we walked into the Reservation Office where they have crammed 4 tiny desks into a small office. I sat down at the next available desk and gave the agent my name. She found the record in her
computer…err, on her printed list (this is still a very low tech operation). Then started the convoluted process that reminded me of festivals/concerts/fairs in the US where you stand in line for a wrist band, then in a line for drink tickets then, again, in a 3rd line for actual drinks. For a reservation, you sit at a desk and make your reservation and get a handwritten ticket, you then go into another office to the cashier who, after you pay, gives you another hand-written receipt. With temporary ticket and receipt in hand, you then RETURN to the original agent who staples a few things and gives you your final ticket. Simply brillant. Although, given the US event analogy, I can’t say they’re operating in a 3rd world backwards fashion–we do it, too.
Check it out, they’ve got you insured for $50k USD per person. The refund policy is a 100% refund if cancelled 72+ hours before departure and 50% refund if you cancel any other time! Not quite SouthWest quality, but a lot better than Delta, United, American etc… Remember there’s a 0% refund for no shows.
The whole ticket-buying process took about 1 hour from Georgetown roundtrip. Plan accordingly if you take this route.
The flight to Kaieteur Falls
After making the reservation on Friday, we returned Saturday afternoon for our 1pm flight. They tell you that check-in is required 1-hr before flight time so 12:00 sharp for us (and the fine print on the back of the ticket backs this up–they reserve the right to cancel your reservation for a check-in any later than the announced time). In practice, it was just as much hurry up and wait as anywhere else on the planet–I guess that’s more human nature than a cultural quirk.
We cruised on up to the check-in counter at 11:45 am and they were no where near ready for us — they asked us to have a seat until called.
The good news: A real check-in counter! …where they’re very thorough about weighing all passengers and baggage–a sign of professionalism and competence when flying small aircraft. Without proper loads and balances, they won’t fly!
When called around 12:30pm, we were asked to hop on the scale and they made a notation. The tickets to Kaieteur state that you can bring yourself + 15 lbs of baggage max. Then back to the waiting area until our departure is announced.
It was slightly confusing because they announced the Kaieteur flight, but when many of us approached the gate, they couldn’t find our names on the list. I had a fear that we would never make it to Kaieteur from the second that I booked the trip and then learned about how “difficult” it is to book a trip in advance. So my natural thought is, “Perfect! I was expecting this all along!” We felt reassured when they said there were 2 flights going to the Falls and we must be on the second one. I hesitantly believe them, still mostly expecting to be screwed over at the end of the day. PLEASE DON’T F ME GUYANA!
Sure enough, the next flight is called soon enough and we proceeded through the departure gate. The gate agent weighed us in one more time (to make sure we didn’t pick up any extra cargo?) and then we walked through a metal detector which was there completely for show since the native in front of me walked through it with his hunting rifle in tow. That’s right, you can suck it TSA, Guyana does not give a damn. So rebellious of you, Guyana, well played.
We do the fun hurry-up-and-wait game into yet another waiting room for about 15 mins, then head on to the plane.
While I was outside of the plane screwing around with the camera, McCown made sure to do her best “pushy American” impression (which she has been practicing since birth) and snag us the front row seats.
The biggest takeaway from that picture is that we had a pilot AND co-pilot for the journey. If that is common-place for Air Services Limited, then I tip my hat– it’s assuredly rare for most companies around the world flying this size of aircraft. A+ on perceived safety.
All-in-all, it was a beautiful day for flying.