Tue | Oct 27, 2020

Grounded! - Caribbean Airlines direct flights from Kingston to Havana fail to take off

Published:Saturday | December 14, 2019 | 12:09 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter

Caribbean Airlines pulled the plug on yesterday’s launch of direct flights from Kingston to Havana, angering Cuba-bound travellers who complained that they were not notified in time about the change.

Dionne Ligoure, manager of corporate communications, declined to give details on the reason behind the freeze on flights, citing only that the airline had done an operational review and “decided to, for now, hold on the service”.

Ligoure said that the scheduled route had been only announced – “not installed” – and that personnel were trying to expedite the process for resolving the grouses of affected travellers.

“Why you are getting feedback today is that the route was due to begin operating today. That’s why this has come up,” Ligoure told The Gleaner yesterday afternoon.

“Other persons for whom we had contact details were immediately contacted once there was a decision not to launch the service.”

Pressed for details on the about-turn by Caribbean Airlines, Ligoure said that “those flights would have shut down about at least two and a half weeks ago, but there were only a few saleable flights available”.

Our news team gathered that non-stop flights had been advertised via caribbeanairlines.com for as low as US$390 per round trip with passengers allowed up to two bags free.

The service, which had the tag line ‘Cuba We Haffi Touchdown’, was scheduled to begin operation from November 6, 2019 and offered direct flights to Havana twice weekly.

REFUNDS OPTIONAL

Ligoure said that refunds would be available although other options were on offer.

“Systems are in place to deal with the customers, because not every customer will have the same desire, so, in fact, some persons may not want a refund, so we can, in fact, only deal with the persons and their particular request, once we have made contact with them or they have made contact with us,” she told The Gleaner.

The communications manager sought to play down the number of travellers affected, saying they “are minimal” and “quite small”. She, however, failed to provide any data.

“We will deal with them in an expeditious manner, realising that some level of inconvenience would have caused so they will be dealt with, I assure you of that,” she said.

Ligoure said that persons were not notified sooner, partly because they may have booked through third parties. The airline said personnel were posted at airports in order to notify persons who could not be contacted about the scrapped departure.

Cuba is one of 22 destinations to which the carrier flies.

Caribbean Airlines flies twice weekly to Cuba out of Trinidad and Tobago, with connections to other destinations. That route has been operational since January 13, 2018.

Cuba has been hit by a downturn in visitor arrivals in 2019, according to a report from the country’s National Statistics Office.

For the first time since 2017, arrivals of Americans have fallen by five to six per cent, shrinking to 436,000, up to September. Cuban and Russian travellers were the only demographic that recorded an uptick in trips.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com