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US lobby group to regulator: Don’t allow CAL to expand Georgetown route

Monday, August 12, 2013

A US aviation lobby group is urging the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to reject an application by majority state-owned Caribbean Airlines to fly directly between Georgetown, Guyana and New York. 



A report on the Caribbean News Now Web site on Friday indicated that Airlines for America (A4A) wants the DOT to oppose the July 18, 2013, application of Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) for “an exemption from 49 USC/40301 (7th Freedom) to operate scheduled service between New York—John F Kennedy International Airport and Georgetown, Guyana.” Members of A4A include Delta Airlines, US Airways, American Airlines, Jet Blue and United, among others.


The 7th Freedom gives an airline the right to fly between two foreign countries while not offering flights to one’s own country. Delta abruptly pulled out of Guyana in May, leaving CAL to dominate the skies over Guyana. According to the report, during peak periods CAL operates up to five flights daily in and out of Guyana, but has faced hurdles to add direct flights out of JFK to Guyana. This led to the government of Guyana granting CAL flag carrier status to get around US DOT hurdles.


The lobby group also opposed the application by Fly Jamaica Airways to operate flights between Jamaica and the US. Airlines for America said: “Both of these applications raise serious and troubling issues for consumers, A4A members and their employees.” The group also stated: “This is not beneficial to US consumers. The Department, instead of granting extra-bilateral exemptions for 7th Freedom operators, should focus on righting the commercial aviation business climate in the region.”


Excessive taxes and fees were also cited for discouraging passengers from flying to certain markets in the region. The group squarely blamed Caribbean Airlines’ fuel subsidy for “forcing the cancellation of US flag service to certain markets” and cited JFK-Georgetown, Guyana, as an example.


“Member airlines have reported significant impact from Caribbean Air’s seven freedom operations and from alleged fuel subsidies from Trinidad and Tobago received by Caribbean Air, which makes it extremely challenging for US carriers to compete,” A4A told the US Department of Transportation. The US airline advocacy group urged the DOT not to grant CAL and Fly Jamaica “such extra-bilateral authority” because “is not the right instrument to invigorate the market,” the group claimed.


“The overall business climate needs to be improved. In its current state, competition is suffering,” A4A added. Caribbean News Now said that the development now adds credence to what inside sources in Georgetown are saying, namely, that “The United States is giving Fly Jamaica a hard time. They are also going after CAL.” Efforts to get a comment from CAL spokesman Clint Williams were unsuccessful on Friday.