(Trinidad Guardian) CAL’s communications manager Dione Ligoure yesterday apologised to the hundreds of passengers affected by the delays. However, she denied flights were cancelled as there was the “consolidation of flights.” She explained that when the pilots flying the ATRs called in sick, 737 jets were brought in to supplement the service. She said “consolidation was necessary because of crew constraints” and apologised for the delays in the services.
From last Friday (July 14) to Sunday (July 16), the 737 jets operated a total of 55 flights between the islands. Despite this, problems on the air bridge continued yesterday, prompting CAL to make some flight changes.
Asked about the safety issues raised by the pilots, Ligoure said, “Caribbean Airlines is uncompromising with respect to safety.”
She said the airline has a “rigorous maintenance programme and we go above and beyond in the context of maintenance of the aircraft, since safety is foremost in everybody’s mind at CAL.”
President of the Airline Pilots Association Paul Foster told the T&T Guardian they had met with CAL management and a joint statement would be issued. Asked whether their concerns were being addressed, he answered in the positive.
CAL employs 177 pilots and they account for 12 per cent of the airline’s workforce and 43 percent of the airline’s overheads. The T&T Guardian understands that the pilots’ wage bill with perks amounts to US$30 million annually. A well placed industry source said a CAL captain is paid just over TT$60,000 a month, while a senior captain earns upwards of TT$100,000 a month. They also benefit from perks including US dollar allowances and cockpit passes.
Efforts to contact CAL’s CEO Jagmohan Singh and Chairman Mohammed were unsuccessful yesterday.
But Tobago Chamber president Demi John Cruickshank yesterday described the situation on the air bridge as “untenable.” He said it was “causing havoc and mayhem, people cannot get from Trinidad to Tobago or vice versa and people missing their international connections. You cannot build a tourism industry like this.”
Public Services Association president Watson Duke said he fully supported the pilots in the current impasse, as he was also concerned about mechanical problems on the ATRs. He is advocating that the ATRs be replaced.
“We do not want a fix up or patch up ATR, we want new planes,” Duke said.