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CAL considers route expansions
NEW YORK—Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) has announced plans for expanding existing routes to include some destinations in the Caribbean. An official at the state-owned carrier said this is one of the things engaging the attention of new CEO Michael DiLollo since his appointment 12 days ago. “We’re looking at new markets as we intend to assess that, taking into consideration the seasonal leisure markets with increased focus on the regional Caribbean market,” senior marketing manager at the carrier, Alicia Cabrera said.
“We are Caribbean Airlines; we don’t service all the territories in the region and this is something that our new CEO is looking at. We are reviewing our network connectivity both regionally and internationally.” Cabrera was speaking Monday night at the opening event of Caribbean Week which is organised by the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO). The annual event, a celebration of the sights, sounds, colours, talents, diverse culture and unique vacation experiences of the Caribbean, runs until June 6.
In the past, shareholders of regional airline Liat have publicly expressed the view that expansion of CAL into the Eastern Caribbean could negatively impact the Antigua-based airline. But they acknowledged that the removal of CAL’s fuel subsidy effective October 1 last year puts the island-hopping carrier in a better position to compete.
Chairman of the Liat shareholders, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines had on numerous occasions described the subsidy as “unfair,” and a breach of the Caricom Air Services Agreement. Cabrera said there is an existing agreement between CAL and Liat. “We’re looking at code shares; actually right now that is a weakness of our product as far as connectivity beyond the gateways are concerned,” she said.
“Liat as a code share, currently we do have an agreement with Liat; it’s called a special pro-rated agreement . . . but we’re looking at expanding our interline agreements beyond the gateway.” CAL chairman Philip Marshall said in a recent statement that the company has completed financial audits for the years 2010 and 2011 and that once they are approved a date will be set for an annual general meeting.
Marshall said the airline’s financial situation had “substantially improved” one year after Finance Minister Larry Howai told Parliament the airline had recorded losses amounting to TT$700 million. Cabrera said there are many challenges facing the carrier but DiLollo is moving swiftly to address them. “The industry continues to be challenged by the rising cost of fuel; taxes and fees continue to rise steadily; (and) for Caribbean Airlines, the competitive environment has been an increasing challenge,” she said.
“While addressing all of these important areas we need to function profitably. So we are working to bring our costs down right now; Mr. DiLollo is very focused on that to ensure that we have a competitive advantage,” Cabrera added.