International aviation attorneys Beaumont Clyde & Company advised the Arthur Lok Jack-led board of directors of now defunct State airline BWIA in late 2006 that the carrier's one pair of landing slots at Heathrow International Airport in London was worth only about five million pounds sterling.
This information was communicated to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan by Lok Jack in July 2011, through answers to a letter of request for information from the AG about a forensic management audit concerning the sale of BWIA's London slots to British Airways for five million pounds sterling in 2007.
The audit undertaken by a committee chaired by economist Jwala Rambarran, now the Central Bank Governor, suggested in its 137-page report that the country did not get fair value for BWIA's Heathrow slots, arguing that they were worth between 23 million and 44 million pounds sterling.
Lok Jack and his former BWIA directors-including Gervase Warner, Robert Riley and William Lucie-Smith — say they were surprised when the findings of the audit were published in the Express last week.
Lok Jack, in a letter dated October 26 to Ramlogan, insisted that no member of the former BWIA board was contacted by the forensic management team and it appeared that the committee "did not receive, or failed to take into account the information and facts which the former board provided to you regarding the sale of the BWIA slots".
This information was sent to the Express and offers answers to 16 questions asked by Ramlogan on July 6, 2011.
In his July 26, 2011 response, Lok Jack points out that European regulations indicated that "time slots" were allocated to airlines for arrival and departure and the pair given to BWIA- 9.30 a.m. for arrival into London and 11.15 a.m. for departure- were "good slots but not prime as they were later than peak traffic hours".
Time slots are not technically "owned" by airlines and cannot be "sold" in the conventional sense because of European regulations but can be "swapped for compensation" between airlines, the Lok Jack response said.
The BWIA board said it instructed former chief executive Peter Davies to obtain competitive tenders for the slots after it was determined the London route was unprofitable.
Lok Jack said the board introduced as a key criterion for the slot arrangement the provision of airlift from London with direct operations into Port of Spain on a regular basis.
Three airlines were considered — British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and British Midland (BMI).
BMI declined to tender and Virgin Atlantic's offer was four million pounds and code share for three flights a week to Port of Spain or 5.75 million pounds with no flights to Trinidad and Tobago.
British Airways' offer was five million pounds sterling with flights to Port of Spain three times a week or an option to purchase equivalent time slots at Gatwick Airport at the end of three years if the airline that was to replace BWIA (now called Caribbean Airlines) wanted to re-enter the London market.
Lok Jack told Ramlogan the board determined the British Airways offer was better, Cabinet accepted the proposal in November 2006 after which a code share agreement was reached in March 2007.
Lok Jack and his former directors feel that these details were not considered in the forensic management audit and want Ramlogan to provide them with a copy of the report so they can address what they say are "misleading and unfounded allegations".
They also want the AG to investigate how the report was provided to the Express.
Ramlogan said on Saturday that the report was not yet ready for public consumption and was a matter before Cabinet.