Travellers on State-owned airline Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) were yesterday left stranded across the hemisphere as almost 20 pilots who were rostered to operate flights called in sick.
In a release yesterday, the airline said all its international and domestic flights would be affected.
Most of the pilots participating in the “sick-out” action belong to the majority recognised pilots’ union, Trinidad and Tobago Airline Pilots’ Association (TALPA).
Sources told the Express the situation was developing since late Monday night. The tensions culminated in most of CAL’s flights to and from New York (USA), Toronto (Canada), Guyana, Suriname, several Caribbean islands and the Tobago air bridge being either delayed or cancelled.
The flight schedule for Piarco International Airport listed on the Airports Authority (AATT) website as 38 CAL flights down to arrive yesterday, but 18 were listed as cancelled. Forty-one were scheduled to depart, but 20 of those were cancelled. The majority of flights affected were on the T&T air bridge where out of 42 flights between the islands, 24 were cancelled.
As of 3.21 p.m., the Express was told all flights on the air bridge were grounded, with no idea when they would take off.
In its release yesterday, the airline’s newly appointed chief executive officer, Michael DiLollo, said the company was “naturally concerned for the health and welfare” of its pilots since the incident was “unprecedented”.
“This unfortunate situation has disrupted our scheduled services at the beginning of our critical summer season, during which we count most on operational crews to demonstrate reliability and service to our loyal customers,” he said.
He noted the potential negative impact of the disruption, especially since families had chosen this time to
travel and committed hard-earned
savings to enjoying this time together.
“To disappoint them will surely be a serious breach of our unspokencontract with them, a betrayal far deeper than even our legal commitment to provide the promised service,” he continued.
CAL said it had been “in communication” with TALPA but it was disappointed with the action of the pilots. The airline added however it will continue to “urge open and frank discussion in good faith while exploring all options available”.
When the Express contacted CAL’s communications director, Clint Williams, he said he could not say more on the situation than the release had stated. He also advised passengers to confirm their flights online at www.caribbean-airlines.com before going to the airport.
CAL’s line minister, Finance Minister Larry Howai, directed questions about the situation to the airline’s chairman, Phillip Marshall, but he did not return telephone requests for comments.
The Express tried repeatedly to
speak with a representative of TALPA but was told the executive members were “in a meeting” and will issue a statement “soon”. Up to press time last night, none had been given. The Express was told however that DiLollo and TALPA president Capt David Pereira met yesterday.
One pilot, who did not give his name, said he and his colleagues felt they were overworked as a result of the airline’s refusal to hire new pilots. As such, the present staff have been overworked for far too long and their remuneration packages were not up to par.
Displaced passengers at Piarco express frustration
The Express visited Piarco International Airport to see how the affected passengers were faring but for the most part, there wasn’t much chaos, just a general feeling of frustration
Most were reluctant to give
interviews but Gillian, who was booked to fly to St Lucia, said while she was advised by counter staff that there were no more flights until Friday, they were “very helpful”, redirecting her to another airline, United, heading to her destination.
The same happened to Irvin, a
St Lucian working in Trinidad, heading home on holiday. He couldn’t get a flight on CAL but the counter staff tried to get him on to British Airways instead.
Displaced passengers between Trinidad and Tobago resorted to the interisland ferry as a last-ditch attempt to get to the other side, resulting in sold-out trips, several stand-by passengers and large crowds gathered at the ferry terminals at both the Ports of Port of Spain and Scarborough.