KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, Wednesday May 1, 2013 – Caribbean aviation and transport ministers met in St Vincent yesterday to discuss a wide range of outstanding matters including the possibility of establishing a single regional airline, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonslaves has said.
Gonsalves, speaking at a news conference, said that while his administration has no objection to the formation of a single airline to serve the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region, such initiatives in the past have not borne fruit.
“At the end of this month, we are hosting here a meeting on air transportation in CARICOM….as you know there are many issues outstanding and as you know I am always amused that the people who are supposed to be thinking about public policy don’t look beyond the headlines”.
He said five or six years ago, then prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning, dissolved BWIA, formed Caribbean Airlines (CAL) and paid off all their debts.
But he said that in 2011, CAL made a loss of US$44 million “and last year they made a loss in the sum of close to US$84 million.
“That is plenty money in any language whatsoever and there is re-thinking of certain things and the call has been made by many persons for one Caribbean airline.
“We have no problem with that,” he said, noting that the fine print would need to be examined.
“I am very mindful before BWIA was dissolved, BWIA took decisions where they simply cut off a lot of flights without notice to Barbados, which affected us here in the Eastern Caribbean and I see on more than one occasion where they have acted not consistent with our own transportation needs.
“I am not going to leave the bone of LIAT for the shadow of something else. So I would like to see a complete revamping of air transportation in the region so that we can get all the relevant synergies,” he said.
Gonsalves has been critical of Port-of-Spain for providing a subsidy to CAL which he said goes against the provisions of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs CARICOM.