Augustine: Let’s work out the airbridge arithmetic

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A CAL plane –

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has called for discussions with Caribbean Airlines (CAL) to “work out the arithmetic” as he described the domestic airbridge as an essential service.

One week ago, CAL in a media release said its operations between the two islands over the years have been characterised by heavy and consistent losses, amounting to millions of dollars. In a statement on Monday, retired director general of Civil Aviation Ramesh Lutchmedial agreed that the airline continues to lose millions of dollars on the airbridge. Lutchmedial called for a new model of flight operations, claiming each flight between Trinidad and Tobago loses at least $40,800, even if it is filled.

He said CAL and its predecessor, BWIA (British West Indian Airways), hardly achieved profitability throughout their existence.

Speaking on Tobago Channel Five’s Rise and Shine programme on Wednesday, Augustine said the service between TT must be seen as an essential service.

“Essential public services are not provided for profit; they are provided for necessity, first and foremost. Public transportation connecting the two islands must be seen as essential public service. The service Caribbean Airlines is providing must be seen as a public transportation service, which is an essential public service.”

He said a dialogue must be had on the issue.

“If Caribbean Airlines know they want to raise the fare, if they know they want to do something else to make some more money, they should come clean. Be honest and let’s have an honest discussion about what it takes to have an efficient interisland airplane service, but the island cannot remain disconnected. Say what you need to say to us. If you’re saying $300 is not doable, you need to add a $100 – let’s work out the arithmetic.”

He added: “The fact that the Minority has remained silent on it. We have not heard a word from our MPs, and Cabinet is in charge of Caribbean Airlines, tells you that they are playing a nasty game, they do not care about Tobago being disconnected, they want Tobago to fail.”