In T&T: Flight 65% full as CAL returns to UK

18 June 2012


CAL chairman says “there will be no last flight ever again.” Confidence or wishful thinking?

History in the making was how national carrier Caribbean Airlines’ re-entry into London was described on Thursday by chairman Rabindra Moonan, Minister of Transport Devant Maharaj, and passengers on the inaugural flight.

After an almost five-year hiatus since CAL’s previous incarnation BWIA ceased flights to the United Kingdom, the State airline took off on Thursday evening from Piarco International Airport with a service destined to London Gatwick.

But the flight left with only a 65 per cent capacity on an aircraft that holds approximately 180 people.

“It’s history in the making,” maintained Moonan at a press conference in the airport lobby to announce the flight.

“On the last flight from BWIA, people acted like it was a funeral. Now it’s time to celebrate…this is the first time on CAL and there will be no last flight ever again,” he added.

Maharaj echoed these sentiments, saying CAL was a national resource, with its importance to the development of the country measured in more than dollars and cents.

“That’s not to say profitability is not something we are concerned about,” he said. Maharaj said the airline and this route will be under constant evaluation, particularly regarding profitability and capacity.

“The board has been given a mandate to turn around the airline by engaging in whatever strategy is necessary,” he said.

Also on hand was soca star Machel Montano, the new brand ambassador for the airline, who sang the new London route jingle, a modification of his hit “In the A.O.A”.

The CAL-London routes have been facing criticism over whether they can be profitable, especially in light of the fact the previously announced six-flight schedule had to be chopped to two, as Maharaj said because he was not pleased with the proposed business plan and the profit turnaround expected, which saw the airline starting to see returns in two years. This, said Maharaj, was too long.

The route was also supposed to be serviced using two planes leased from LAN Chile, but CAL’s acting CEO Robert Corbie said the airline is currently using two aircraft on wet-lease from Omni in the United States.

He said the LAN Chile arrangement was still on, and the planes’ delivery was just late.

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