Bumpy skies for Caribbean Airlines
February 4, 2011
Bumpy skies for Caribbean Airlines

Caribbean Airlines can forget about plans to operate flights into St.Vincent and the Grenadines via the E.T. Joshua Airport if it proceeds with plans to utilize the ATR 72 planes.{{more}}

This was made clear by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves on Wednesday, February 2, at a press conference held shortly after the LIAT Heads of Government Shareholders meeting in Kingstown.

“I will tell you once CAL says ATR 72s in the sub-region, forget Arnos Vale.” said Gonsalves.

The Prime Minister said he understands that Caribbean Airlines will be purchasing nine ATR 72s, which are 70 seater aircraft, from Europe. However, this type of aircraft is unable to leave E.T. Joshua airport fully loaded.

Gonsalves further stated that within the sub-region, there is not sufficient demand to have LIAT and Caribbean Airlines both functioning.

He said Caribbean Airlines can enter and be profitable, but for them to do so, they will have to take LIAT out of the sky.

“And to take LIAT out of the sky, among other things, they will have to drive a horse and chariot through the Multilateral Air Services Aggreement and the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. And I don’t see us standing by and allowing a horse and chariot to be driven through these things to provide anybody with any unfair advantage,” said Gonsalves.

According to the Prime Minister, while LIAT has to pay the full cost of aviation fuel, fuel is bought at a subsidized rate by Caribbean Airlines.

“If somebody wants to come inside of this region to take out LIAT from the air and replace it by a monopoly based outside of the shareholders of this region, this sub-region, there is a problem,” said Gonsalves.

The Prime Minister mentioned that Articles 14 and 15 of the Multilateral Air Services Agreement speak of fair competition and the establishment of tariff, respectively.

Gonsalves promised to use these Articles to deal with the Caribbean Airlines issue.

“You want to come into my space with subsidized fuel and take me out of the air? Well, that is not permissible,” said Gonsalves.

On January 16, 2010, LIAT’s shareholders had a discussion with Caribbean Airlines about exploring a nexus, but that discussion never advanced, said Gonsalves, who also said there are no plans to have any discussion with Caribbean Airlines.

He added that he finds it strange that officials from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and Caribbean Airlines are talking about LIAT as though they own it.

Gonsalves said he did not sign on to the Treaty of Chaguaramas to be somebody’s colony or metropolitan centre.

“Just like I not prepared to put the future of air transport in St.Vincent and the Grenadines and the Eastern Caribbean in the hands of Stanford, I’m not prepared to put it in the hands of anybody else who presuming that they are a metropolitan centre and we a colonial outpost,” said Gonsalves.

Gonsalves said he is not trying to have a division between himself and the rest of CARICOM, but he is trying to properly protect the interest of the people of his sub-region.(HN)