CAL warned to back off LIAT territory, London route

Published: Wednesday | May 16, 2012 Comments 0
Caribbean Airlines, the national carrier of Trinidad and Tobago. - file
Caribbean Airlines, the national carrier of Trinidad and Tobago. - file

Trinidad's Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley has called on the state-owned Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) to abandon its plans to reintroduce regular flights to London, and also criticised plans by the airline to compete with the Antigua-based regional airline LIAT to Caribbean destinations.

Rowley, who as a government backbencher had opposed the Patrick Manning decision to enter into an agreement to take over the loss-making Air Jamaica, told a news conference that his position regarding the Kingston-based airline remains.

He said the Kamla Persad-Bissessar government should reconsider its role to "underwrite the operations of Air Jamaica at the expense of the taxpayers of Trinidad and Tobago in a time when we are operating a deficit budget".

Rowley said the move by CAL to operate a London route would be a significant drain on the Treasury and warned that the existing business model under which the airline is now operating is "doomed to failure".

But he said perhaps the most ridiculous idea was to consider CAL flying to Mumbai, India, and South Africa.

"Absolute madness. Stupidity bordering on malice," Rowley said, adding that he does not think the coalition government here knows about the story of Air India or the smaller airlines in India.

"And going to South Africa is even worse," he said.

Rowley also said he was against plans by CAL to enter into competition with LIAT, which he said was a doomed strategy that would create problems with CARICOM governments.

"That has put LIAT into a very difficult position, and you would have heard Caribbean prime ministers groaning and complaining about the behaviour of Trinidad and Tobago," Rowley said, recalling the experience of Caribbean Sun and Caribbean Star owned by fraud convict Allen Stanford.

"As long as the island governments support LIAT in the way they have to - because LIAT is bringing tourists - this competition is doomed to create problems," he said, noting that CAL was at times flying to St Lucia with just five passengers on-board.

Earlier this month, Finance Minister Winston Dookeran said that CAL had recorded losses in excess of US$52.8 million last year and owes creditors millions of dollars.

Jamaica owns 16 per cent of Caribbean Airlines.

- CMC


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