Thursday, January 18, 2018

Is CAL's $50 fee too much? agents weigh in

Caribbean Airlines' (CAL) move to introduce a $50 fee for flight changes on the domestic airbridge is not sitting well with the owner of one travel agency.

Managing director and owner of Tradewinds Travel Limited, Susan Phargoo, said she viewed the fee as too exorbitant.

CAL announced the new fee on Monday.

It said the implementation will “support our efforts to improve the efficacy of service to our customers”.

Phargoo said she found the fee to be harsh.

“Even If they want to charge a fee, it shouldn't be that exorbitant as $50,” she told the Express in a telephone interview yesterday.

“Maybe they should implement something along the line that the first change of flight is free, then after that people would be liable if they book the seats and don't appear,” she said.

She agreed that some passengers on the airbridge abused the system by booking flights and simply not showing up. She said she also understands that the new measure is part of CAL's efforts to recoup lost revenue.

But she said: “If they do bring the high, exorbitant fee they need to improve the service to Tobago. They need to be on time and not have so many delays and cancellations of flights. We should expect Tobago to be treated like an international destination.”

But Shawn Ali, Manager of Amral's Travel Service in Valsayn, said the introduction of the fee is long overdue.

“Some people who understand the situation with the Tobago airbridge know that people book and just don't show up for their flights. They understand that this is something that should have been implemented a very long time ago,” he said.

“What tends to happen at the airport is you see full flights at the airport between Trinidad and Tobago and when you get to the airport you get placed on a standby list and probably, on average, about 20 people would not show up for a flight,” he added.

In its statement on Monday, CAL noted that as at Sunday it provided 1,025,694 seats on the airbridge, of which 876,825 seats were utilised by travellers. That means about 15 per cent of the seats are not being used when booked.

“Of the latter figure, (data generated from March 24, 2017 to present) 186,586 were passengers who did not travel on their originally scheduled flight, that is passengers not holding a booking for the specific day and time they wished to travel. For the same period in 2016, the airline provided 1,061,800 seats on the air bridge with 853,763 being utilized,” CAL outlined.