Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Caribbean Tourism Organization chairman says REDjet is a wake-up call for the Caribbean aviation sector

Chairman of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Richard Skerritt says the Barbados-based low cost carrier, REDjet should serve as a motivator for developing an environment that would encourage intra-regional travel, noting that during itRichard Skerritts 10 months of operations the airline had showed there is a pent up demand for such travel.

Skerritt, who is also Tourism Minister for St. Kitts and Nevis, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that REDjet had been able to make a significant dent in intra-regional travel “which is being stifled by both capacity and ticket prices.

“So there is no question that Caribbean people want to travel i the region at the right price, at the right aircraft at the right time. REDjet was a costly experiment for the investors who put REDjet in place.

“It is a pity that REDjet had to collapse as a business so quickly,” Skerritt told CMC.

Earlier this week, a senior Barbados government minister said that efforts were being made to have the low-cost carrier resume operations within a two month period after it suspended all its flights from March 16.

Trinidad and Tobago over the weekend announced that it had revoked the licences granted to the carrier that last month suspended its services to various regional destinations.

Billed as a low-cost, no-frills carrier initially offering fares as low as US$9.99, the privately-owned airline did not give specific reasons for the shutdown last month, but suggested that it was expecting state assistance to continue operations and blamed “subsidised” competitors for its troubles.

“REDjet is hopeful that we will be given a small part of the state assistance others receive, as it will allow us to get our recently approved and exciting new routes established and profitable. Once this happens our shareholders and staff will do their utmost to see that there is no return to high fares and business as usual”, the company said in a statement then.

Skerrit said that while he could not “speak to the issue of subsidies” and REDjet’s request to the Barbados government, “all I would say is that REDjet was a wakeup call for us in terms of what’s possible.

“We have to use REDjet as a motivator to keep fighting and pushing for an environment which is more conducive to increased intra-regional travel. Intra-regional travel is important to our economic activity and all of us in the Caribbean has suffered from declining levels of intra-regional travel,” he told CMC.

On Tuesday, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves showed little or no sympathy for the low cost carrier saying that he was never informed as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) lead prime minister on air transport of its operations in the region.

“Nobody in any country in CARICOM wrote me or told me about it. None of the countries where REDjet was servicing (informed me). None. The owners of REDjet did not come and see me and tell me what they were doing, so I interpreted that as there was no interest in having the CARICOM air transport spokesperson get involved in their business,” Gonsalves told CMC.

But he acknowledged that there is need for a meeting of regional governments to discuss the Caribbean aviation environment and in particular the “unfair” subsidy provided by Trinidad and Tobago to its national carrier Caribbean Airlines (CAL).

“It is contrary to the common air services agreement which we have all signed and indeed in my view subversive of the Revised Treaty of Charguaramas of 2001” which governs the regional integration movement,” Gonsalves said, adding “REDjet has a point there in relation to CAL” (CMC)


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