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Caribbean Airlines testing flights

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Caribbean Airlines (CAL) is reported to be in a state of advanced preparation for the operation of a regular Dash-8 service into and out of E. T. Joshua Airport from as early as February or March.{{more}}

Searchlight spoke with Laura Asbjornsen, CAL’s Head of Corporate Communications on Tuesday and she confirmed that the airline is “investigating the possibility of operating in St. Vincent”.

She however could not give a date when the service into this country is likely to begin.

The Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) however reported on Wednesday that an official, who spoke on the condition on anonymity, said CAL is planning to operate regularly scheduled Dash-8 flights between Trinidad, Grenada, St. Vincent and Barbados to begin as early as February or March.

Searchlight has also confirmed that on Monday, January 10, officials from CAL visited St. Vincent, and held meetings with officials of some airlines operating here, as well as other local businesses and individuals.

However, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Air and Seaport Development Godfrey Pompey told Searchlight that while they too have heard rumours, no official communication has been received by the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines or the other relevant local or regional authorities on the matter.

“No paperwork has been filed, no approval has been sought,” Pompey said.

The Permanent Secretary said no paperwork has been filed with his ministry, nor the Transport and Licensing Board, the governing body which grants approval for airlines to operate in our airspace.

“We have checked with the ECCAA (Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority) and LIAT, and neither body has been officially notified,” Pompey said.

He said it is expected that when airlines plan to operate similar routes to an existing carrier, that the competitor is informed.

He said in principle, the government has no problem with CAL operating here, as long as the necessary procedures are followed and the required approvals sought.

Pompey however confirmed that for the past three weeks or so, CAL has been conducting test flights into the E.T. Joshua Airport.

Late last year, former CAL chief executive officer, Captain Ian Brunton, said that the Trinidad-based airline would begin twice weekly return services from Trinidad to Grenada and New York.

Last month, the Trinidad and Tobago government gave the green light for the state-owned CAL to spend US$200 million on purchasing nine aircraft from the French–based manufacturer ATR ending weeks of disagreement between the Transport and Works Minister Austin Jack Warner and the CAL board of directors.

The Kamla Persad Bissessar government has also sanctioned the agreement reached with the cash strapped Air Jamaica last year.

Under the agreement, the Jamaica government owns 16 per cent of CAL as part of the conditions for the CAL taking over the lucrative routes of the Air Jamaica.

The deal also allows for Trinidad and Tobago agreeing to a US$300 million transition plan for CAL to acquire and operate six Air Jamaica aircraft and eight of its routes.

LIAT, whose major shareholders are the governments of Barbados, St. Vincent and Antigua and Barbuda, enjoys an almost virtual monopoly on inter-regional flights.

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