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Rowley: Competition with LIAT will create problems

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley has called on Government to return Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) to the original business model at the time of its inception, and, among other things, to stop the airline from running a parallel service to compete with Leewards Islands Air Transport (LIAT) in and around the Caribbean.

Speaking at a news conference at the Opposition Leader office, in Port of Spain Rowley said yesterday CAL seeking to enter into competition with LIAT was doomed and is bound to create problems with Caricom governments.

Noting that the plan of having LIAT run the Caribbean routes while CAL takes passengers out of the region, Rowley said the George Nicholas-led board upset this when it decided to buy ATR planes to run competition with LIAT.

"That has put LIAT into a very difficult position and you would have heard Caribbean prime ministers groaning and complaining about the behaviour of Trinidad and Tobago".

Rowley said after the experience of Caribbean Sun and Caribbean Star, CAL would do nothing different.

"As long as the (other) island Governments support LIAT in the way they have to, because LIAT is bringing tourists (to them) this competition is doomed to create problems," he said. He added that CAL to going to islands like St Lucia with five persons on a plane.

Rowley also said the London route, upon which CAL was about to embark, would also be unprofitable. He said this route was found to be financially unfeasible when BWIA existed. Since then the London route faces more cut-throat competition, lower loads, and CAL, unlike BWIA, is going to Gatwick, which is less attractive.

But perhaps the most ridiculous idea was to consider CAL flying to Mumbai, India, and South Africa. "Absolute madness. Stupidity bordering on malice," he said.

He added that he did not think Government knew what was the story of Air India or the smaller airlines in India. He said the one good thing about this idea is that it would never happen.

"And (thinking of) going to South Africa is even worse," he said.

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