REDjet's plans to fly from T&T on May 8 are in trouble. Ramesh Lutchmedial, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of T&T (CATT), said yesterday he had ordered REDjet to immediately cease all advertising of its fares to the three destinations to which it had been marketing its $63 rate. The low-cost carrier, which a week ago launched its services at the Carlton Savannah, St Ann's, said it planned to service the Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana routes. Lutchmedial said CATT dispatched a letter, dated yesterday, to the low-cost carrier informing it to desist from advertising fares or the making of any bookings until it had received the required permission from the relevant authorities in T&T. Since the launch of REDjet, there have been concerns surrounding its acquisition of a licence to operate in T&T. During the commencement of road works in St Augustine South yesterday, Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner said: "The permanent secretary has submitted a report stating that nobody has given REDjet permission to fly into Trinidad." Warner said T&T was not against competition, but that there were laws airlines wanting to operate in T&T had to obey and fulfil, which had not been done in the case of REDjet. Warner said the airline had not yet approached the Airports Authority of T&T for permission to operate here.
Asked if he thought the airline was guilty of "ambush," Warner said he would not use that word to describe the situation, but that from his perspective, there was poor planning on the part of the airline.
Asked, too, if Government had the ultimate power to prevent an airline from flying in T&T, Warner said yes, but it would not do so because there were reciprocal aviation agreements between countries.
REDjet has said its base fares start at US$63, but that rate did not include government and sales taxes.
Newspaper advertisements stated that those rates were subject to daily bank rates of conversion.
In a statement issued on Monday, Kevin Dudley, REDjet's chief operations officer, said the airline received regulatory approvals from the Air Transport Licensing Authority of Barbados, under the service agreements between Barbados and all other states, including the air services agreement between the relevant countries, to commence commercial activities. Yesterday, Lutchmedial said while the airline might have obtain its licence from Barbados, it did not give the airline automatic rights to fly into T&T.
Lutchmedial explained that the Air Transport Licensing Authority of Barbados, under the air service agreements between Barbados and other states, was subject to the local laws of the other countries.
He said that means it was not an automatic right for REDjet to operate in T&T. He said the airline had to apply to T&T and even Jamaica and Guyana, as these licences would be based on the compliance of each country's local laws. Lutchmedial further outlined the process in which a carrier or flight operator had to engage before acquiring a licence to fly into T&T. He said after the airline acquired its licence from Barbados Civil Aviation Authority, the Barbados government, through a diplomatic note sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, must designate that REDjet as a national carrier of Barbados under the terms and condition of the civil aviation agreement between Barbados and T&T. Asked if he was aware that the Foreign Affairs Ministry was in receipt of such a note, Lutchmedial said he was not certain if that was the case.
"I am not sure...I do not want to say yes or no," he said. Following this note, Lutchmedial said the T&T Civil Aviation would be informed and would have to ensure that the Barbados Civil Authority is in compliance with the safety and security standards of the international Civil Aviation before it makes any recommendation for the issuance of a licence. Notwithstanding this procedure, Lutchmedial said most importantly, CATT was an agency of the state and was guided by government policy. "So matters like these we have to consult with the line minister," he said. Attempts yesterday to contact Anne-Marie Edwards-Job, account manager for REDjet at Sandra Welch Farrell and Company (SWF&Co), which is handling REDjet's public relations, were unsuccessful. The T&T Guardian was told that Edwards-Job was in a meeting and she would be unable to comment on any issue as she had another engagement afterwards.