PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, (CMC):
The Barbadian low-cost airline REDjet is set to fly to Trinidad in less than two weeks after the airline took the local civil aviation authority to court, the Trinidad Express newspaper has reported, possibly ending one of the more hectic chapters in recent Caribbean aviation history.
The report is the latest twist in a three month-old saga that began with Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica denying entry to the carrier.
It escalated to verbal brawling between Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders, accusations and denials, a flurry of political and bureaucratic meetings, questions about the safety of the airline's 24-year-old fleet of passenger jets, and withering inter-island criticism by regional people both of their governments and of each other.
The paper, citing court records and anonymous sources, said the airline and the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority reached a 'compromise' Friday afternoon after a hearing in the Port of Spain High Court before Justice Mira Dean Armorer.
Sources told the Express that under the compromise, the airline whose registered company name is Airone Ventures Ltd, is expected to begin flying the route on July 28.
But the paper said all parties in the court case "may be subjected to a confidentiality agreement" and that the airline's business development manager Robbie Burns declined to comment on the matter. Director of Civil Aviation Ramesh Lutchmedial could not be reached for comment, it said.
Senior Counsel Avery Sinanan appeared on behalf of the Trinidadian regulator, said the Express, quoting court documents.
The airline is expected to hold a news conference this week to officially make Port of Spain its third destination after Barbados and Guyana, the newspaper reported.
There was no announcement on the fledgling carrier's website or its Facebook page, where it began trumpeting fares beginning from about US$10 each way between Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana and Jamaica early this year.
Jamaica refused application
But Jamaica, which had just approved the takeover of its flag carrier, Air Jamaica, by Trinidad and Tobago's state-owned Caribbean Airlines, refused REDjet's application to fly between Port-of-Spain and Kingston. The Barbadian carrier's plans to fly from Barbados to Jamaica remain stalled at the political level.
In June, Prime Minister Bruce Golding told the ruling Jamaica Labour Party that REDjet had tried to fly to Jamaica when Air Jamaica still existed, but that permission was denied as he was not prepared for Air Jamaica's 'Lovebird' planes to "start dropping out of the sky".
During the annual CARICOM summit in Jamaica, the diplomatic tit-for-tat escalated. "We in Barbados certified REDjet in Barbados as safe. We are being second-guessed on that. Other people certify their aircraft and we don't second-guess them," said the Barbadian leader Freundel Stuart.
"I only want to know the rules. I just want to know how people are playing the game; I can play the game as well as they can play it," he said, adding to the air of brinkmanship that characterised the inter-regional aviation discussion.
The controversy also sparked a region-wide debate about the cost of intra-regional travel, the future of regional integration, competition and safety in the aviation industry and the use of social media networking kept the airline's name on Caribbean newspaper front pages and on radio and television talk shows and news programmes.
Beginning with its launch at the Carlton Savannah hotel in Trinidad on April 13 when it began selling tickets, the announcement of imminent flights between Port of Spain and Bridgetown sparked a denial by then Works and Transport Minister Austin 'Jack' Warner that permission had been granted to the airline.
The airline, owned by a consortium of Irish and Barbadian investors, had already received an air operator's licence from the Barbados government. The Guyanese government, chaffing about high fares between the South American nation and its CARICOM neighbours and its testy relationship with Caribbean Airlines lost little time in granting REDjet permission to begin operating the Bridgetown-Georgetown route.
The airline maintained that it had already sought and received permission to fly the Port of Spain-Bridgetown route from the civil aviation authority, and invoked the name of a bilateral air services agreement that appeared to grant national carriers access to each other's skies.