Saturday, February 11, 2012

Caribbean Airlines to expand aggressively – Minister

Despite threats by LIAT to sue Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) over allegations of unfair competition, Transport Minister Devant Maharaj says CAL would continue to service the Eastern Caribbean aggressively.  “We see CAL as having a pivotal role in the development of T&T’s tourism and it would continue to aggressively pursue markets in all territories in the Eastern Caribbean.” Maharaj said he felt the market is currently not being serviced properly and CAL, which he described as the “Caribbean’s number one airline,” would continue to expand its markets in the region. Maharaj, who was speaking yesterday at a CAL new conference held at the Piarco International Airport, said he was not willing to comment further on the matter. “Given the threat of litigation, I don’t think it would be prudent to comment on that at this point in time. I await whatever pre-action letter that would be served and then we would respond.” He said he was not depending solely on newspaper reports and is waiting to officially hear from LIAT.

Last week Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines and chairman of the shareholder governments of LIAT, said the airline’s owners felt CAL was undermining the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas as well as the Common Air Services Agreement in Caricom by engaging in unfair competition. Gonsalves said no one can stop CAL or wants to stop CAL, but shareholder governments of LIAT would like to have a level playing field and fair competition.

Asked if CAL was in breach of any Caricom or Chaguaramas treaty law, Maharaj said, “I shudder to think that any board under my remit would breach any law and that includes CAL.” Prior to this accusation, CAL came under more fire by the low-cost airline REDjet, which accused CAL of deceptive advertising. This was quickly dismissed by Maharaj, who said REDjet was looking for free advertising and was not in a position to properly comment on deceptive advertising, because many of REDjet’s flights were recently cancelled. Jokingly, Maharaj said “CAL is an airline, but REDjet is just about two planes.”


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