As several international carriers cut flights into the Caribbean region, LIAT airline’s Jean Holder is urging a meeting of CARICOM heads of government to discuss the issue of air transportation’s critical role in supporting the CARICOM.
Holder made the call amid concerns that in March 2013, American Eagle will cease operations into the region; British Airways will stop operating to San Juan, Puerto Rico, after March 2013; and Virgin Airlines will cease operating its summer program to Tobago in 2013 unless the government there pays them 1 million pounds (approximately $1.6 million).
Even as these carriers pull out, the region’s aviation operators, such as Caribbean Airlines and LIAT, are struggling to survive.
“A service that is critical to the survival of the Single Market and Economy must be the concern of the entire community,” said Holder, while cautioning that the focus of the meeting must not be about blaming the airlines, which have given a total of 200 years of service to the region and the countries that have subsidized the rest of the region.
“It must be about what is needed to get regional transportation right and what and how much each country, which is a beneficiary of the services, will contribute to the cause in its own best interests,” he said.
In a presentation to LIAT shareholders in Bridgetown, Barbados, the airline expert said that the agenda must be wide enough to include a number of aviation issues, which are related to the proper functioning of regional air transportation.
Holder’s other recommendations include the creation of CARICOM airline alliances, which he said must be once more placed on the table. A committee, including representatives of the management of the carriers, should be established without delay to examine the feasibility of this concept, he argued.
In addition, Holder wants these deliberations to take place with regard to the articles of the CARICOM Multilateral Agreement concerning the operation of air services within the Caribbean.
Read more: Jamaica Gleaner