Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Orville London has requested that Finance Minister Larry Howai look into delinking of the Trinidad to Tobago airbridge from Caribbean Airlines (CAL).
However, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Vasant Bharath says the current route is heavily subsidised and a separate airline through the private sector would result in increased airfares.
London met with Howai last week to discuss the upcoming 2015 national budget.
According to a release from the THA yesterday, London stated the use of a separate airline could bring better management to the Trinidad to Tobago route.
“We are asking Caribbean Airlines to make a profit but on the other hand we are accepting the fact that the Trinidad to Tobago airbridge has to be subsidised. We are saying this situation is untenable, it is unworkable and it will create problems for the central government and, of course, the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” stated London.
“Our strong recommendation is that we return to a more efficient arrangement which would entail that we have a separate airline running the bridge between Trinidad and Tobago where we could deal with all the nuances. We could determine what level of subsidy, we could determine what is the best type of airplane and we can ensure it achieves the objective with respect to bringing people between the two islands,” he added,
London stated the THA was convinced that if there was an efficient airbridge there would be tens of millions worth in benefit to the tourism sector.
He added he was heartened by Howai’s response as well as by the response of Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz, whom he met earlier this month and was looking forward to a statement on the matter in this year’s budget.
Cadiz said CAL no longer falls under his ministry and is now under the purview of the Finance Ministry.
However, he said the Finance Minister would have to look at the suggestion and determine if it is feasible.
He said CAL is being asked to make a profit or break even and at the same time they operate the very heavily subsidised Trinidad to Tobago airbridge.
TOURISM MINISTER: CHARGE PASSENGERS FOR UNUSED RESERVATIONS:
Contacted for comment yesterday, Tourism Minister Gerald Hadeed said there should be some action in dealing with the current booking system used by CAL.
He pointed out that people make reservations and block seats and don’t utilise them. He said in this way the flights always appear full but when one goes to the airport there is availability.
Hadeed said travellers should be charged $400 for reserving earlier and confirming their seat and $300 if they go straight to the airport and purchase from the counter.