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CAL chairman tells JSC: T&T airbridge not profitable

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Had the strike gone ahead at state-owned Petrotrin, Caribbean Airlines (CAL) had a contingency plan, the airline’s chairman Shameer Mohammed told a Joint Select Committee meeting at Parliament in Port-of-Spain yesterday.

In response to a question from Opposition MP Fazal Karim hours before the strike was called off by the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), Mohammed said: “We have made contingency plans to ensure that we continue to operate our schedules. We do have arrangements in place with NP and we do have arrangements in place with the various airports that we fly into.”

During the JSC session, which lasted two-and-a-half hours, Mohammed also said there was need to increase add on costs on the air bridge between Trinidad and Tobago because it is not profitable. He said the existing $300 round trip price of a ticket is not economical, adding that the more appropriate would be about $600 or $700.

Mohammed said the airbridge is an essential service so an increase in fare would have to be guided by Government policy.

Acting Permanent Secretary in the Finance Ministry Lisa Phillips confirmed that CAL made a request for increased add on charges. She said the ministry asked for additional information from the airline “to come up with a position on the matter” and once that is supplied, there should be a decision by February.

Also during the meeting, Mohammed said two of CAL’s ATR aircraft are out of service because of technical problems. He said officials of the ATR company have been to T&T and the problems are being addressed. Mohammed said in 2011 when the contract was signed for the aircraft the right to sue the manufacturer was waived. He said the five ATRs cost the state $200 million.

Mohammed said the new board, which was installed last October, has obtained a legal opinion from attorneys in London and is looking at all possible options in the matter.

Laventille East/Morvant MP Adrian Leonce asked whether possible legal action would be directed at the aircraft manufacturer alone, or also at those who may have agreed to the contract. Vice chairman of the airline Michael Quamina said the contract between ATR and CAL provided for a three year warranty, which is “somewhat short (but) in exchange for getting the three year warranty period the contract waived certain rights thereafter.”

Quamina said CAL is “exploring the legality of that waiver in an effort to see what avenues are available to us in so far as recourse is concerned.”


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