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CAL expanding up the region says Warner
Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner said yesterday that he believes the expansion of Caribbean Airlines (CAL) into the Eastern Caribbean may bring the state-owned airline into direct competition with LIAT.
But, speaking at the post-Cabinet news conference, Warner expressed confidence that LIAT would eventually talk to CAL about coming together.
Warner said: “All I can say is that Caribbean Airlines is expanding and we are going to new areas as well as areas where we have markets like Guyana, Haiti and Antigua. “In some cases we may be clashing with LIAT on some of their routes. But I believe, ultimately, LIAT and CAL will sit down and talk and come together as Air Jamaica has done and as we plan to do with Bahamas Air and Cayman.
“In the end, what we see is one vision, one Caribbean airline.” Warner was responding to St Vincent Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who on Wednesday criticised the decision by the Trinidad-based CAL to expand its operations into the Eastern Caribbean, saying it was doing so in contravention of the treaty governing the Caribbean Community (Caricom) trading bloc. Speaking at the end of a shareholders meeting of the regional airline, LIAT, Gonsalves said that while he was not against any form of competition nor was he in favour of any division within Caricom, it was vitally important to protect the interest of the Antigua-based airline.
“If somebody wants to come into this region and take out LIAT from the air and replace it with a monopoly based outside of the shareholders of this sub-region, there is a problem. Bear this in mind while we have to pay US$102 a barrel right now for aviation fuel, CAL pays US$50 dollars because they are subsidised by the government of Trinidad and Tobago. “The rules of Caricom the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and the multilateral treaty which was signed way back in 1996…signed by the heads of government at the time…deal with the issue of fair competition,” said Gonsalves, who chaired the LIAT shareholders meeting that was attended by his Barbados colleague Freundel Stuart and the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer.
The St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister said that discussions had been held with CAL on January 16 last year on the possibility of exploring a nexus. “Frankly, I find it very strange that officials from the government of Trinidad and Tobago and CAL could be talking about LIAT as though they own it, that they will come into the Eastern Caribbean and it is only a matter of time that they take over LIAT”. “I don’t know where these men and women get these ideas from. They don’t own LIAT, they don’t own St Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados. Since when they can talk like this. (CMC)
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