Caribbean Airlines has said that the high cost of flying between Trinidad and Tobago and the subsidised ticket prices are factors in the number of flights on the airbridge but says it is committed to ensuring that it continues as an essential service.
In a statement Thursday, the airline said the provision of a safe and reliable airbridge service is a priority for Caribbean Airlines and that the company recognises that it is a critical part of the transport service between Trinidad and Tobago.
"However, there are several factors that must be considered when looking at the airline’s commercial operations, both international and domestic," it said.
The airline pointed out that its fleet comprises seven ATR and nine Boeing 737-8 aircraft and that on average, about 3-4 ATRs operate the airbridge at any given time.
Further, it noted that each Wednesday and Thursday a 737-8 operates to/from JFK via Tobago, providing an additional 160 seats each way. It said other jet services are added, on an ad hoc basis and that the jets are not routinely used on the route due to the high operational costs and given the short distance (52 miles).
"Since the re-opening of Trinidad and Tobago’s borders in July 2021, the airline has consistently increased domestic flights and added airlift operationally, within the limits of its resources. Caribbean Airlines has also remained in communication with stakeholders, keeping them advised about the factors impacting its operations. Namely, that the company is focussed on operating efficiently, which involves striking a delicate balance of using its limited resources on revenue generating routes and the air bridge. It is also still in a critical period of recovery, arising from the devastating impact of the pandemic," Caribbean Airlines said.
It added, "It is important to note, that the domestic operation is characterized by consistent losses, US$9,613,100 (as at June 2022) and other critical variables including but not limited to:
• subsidised flights
• high operating costs (USD 17,306 per flight hour)
• low prices which do not reflect actual market value
• one-way peak demand periods outside of the July-August school holiday period"
Caribbean Airlines added that the operational costs for the airbridge as at June 2022, are:
Total Costs: US$18,777,648
Cost per flight hour US$17,306
"The high costs are driven by the frequency of flights and the short distance (52 miles) leading to an undesirable low block hour utilization of aircraft and crews and maintenance costs – US$17,306 per flight hour. Nonetheless, the domestic schedule (inclusive of peak travel periods) considers the essential nature of the service, events and activities in Tobago, the total number of passengers over a twelve-month period and other information relevant to its operation," the airline added.
It said that in terms of passenger and flight details, for the period July 17, 2021 to July 31, 2022, the airline operated 6,527 flights carrying 416,780 passengers.
It assured a total of 120,860 seats (66,832 - August & 54,028- September) will be provided on the air bridge for August and September 2022 outside of additional ad hoc flying.
"Caribbean Airlines is mindful of the need to have an effective air bridge between Trinidad and Tobago and the company continues to closely manage same, bearing in mind the considerable constraints outlined above," it said.