Caribbean Airlines: Flights on airbridge consistent but costly

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A Caribbean Airlines plane

Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) says it has consistently been increasing flights since the re-opening of the borders in July 2021. However, domestic operations on the Trinidad to Tobago airbridge have been racked with heavy and consistent losses amounting to millions of dollars.

CAL made the statement in a media release shortly after Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Farley Augustine lambasted the airline, on the Tobago Update morning show on Wednesday, for not providing an appropriate number of flights.

“I am certain that if there is some massive problem that disconnects south Trinidad from the rest of the island and PTSC cannot operate, that the cabinet would find a solution and fix it.

“It cannot be that when it is convenient to you, you jump around with this talk of a twin-island republic and that we are united, but when it comes to keeping us connected you just ignore it.”

Augustine complained that it was only in April, just before Easter, when flights were increased to 12. He suggested that Tobago, a service-driven economy, cannot do well without an appropriate number of flights. He also accused Tobago East and West MPs, Ayanna Webster-Roy and Shamfa Cudjoe, of doing nothing to advocate for the improved frequency of flights.

“We have members of parliament for a reason. Why are we taking away the responsibility from them? They sit down there in Cabinet and are meant to represent Tobago East and West in the Parliament.”

“When it is convenient they walk around and say ‘Oh we love you so’ and ‘We are loving and caring.’ Loving and caring what? You eh loving and caring one fart.”

Augustine said Tobago remains disconnected, and the THA should not have to beg for essential public services.

In its release, CAL said there are three to four ATR aircraft operating on the airbridge at any given time, and every Wednesday and Thursday a 737-8 aircraft operates to and from JFK Airport in New York, providing an added 160 seats each way.

But the operation of the airbridge, CAL said, is seeing consistent losses amounting to about US$9,613,100.

It said there are high operating costs attributed to the operation of the airbridge amounting to US$17,306 per flight hour. As of June, CAL spent US$18,777,648 in operational costs.

“The high costs are driven by the frequency of flights and the short distance (52 miles), leading to an undesirable low block-hour utilisation of aircraft, crew and maintenance costs.

“Nonetheless, the domestic schedule considers the essential nature of the service.”

CAL said for the period July 17 2021 to July 31 2022 it operated 6,527 flights, carrying 416,780 passengers.

It said a total of 120,680 seats will be provided on the airbridge for August and September.