Barbados may help rescue REDjet
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday May 09, 2012 – Prime Minister Freundel Stuart says his administration has not turned its back on REDjet, insisting that the airline would not be treated as “some cast-off child”.
Speaking at a public meeting of his ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP), Stuart said that some concerns still needed to be addressed about the carrier before the government could consider investing in its operations.
Last month, a senior Barbados government minister said that efforts were being made to have REDjet resume operations within a two-month period.
The cash-strapped low budget airline suspended its services to various regional destinations in March.
Billed as a low-cost, no-frills carrier initially offering fares as low as US$9.99, the privately-owned airline did not give specific reasons for the shutdown, but suggested that it was expecting state assistance to continue operations and blamed “subsidised” competitors for its problems.
The prime minister revealed that he has asked the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Darcy Boyce, to secure a copy of the company’s balance sheet for examination by government.
A determination would be made about the airline after such exercise, Stuart said.
“It is a nationally designated airline and Barbados is not going to resile from that. The movement of visitors through the Caribbean increased during the time that REDjet was in the air and we have no particular interest in frustrating that.
“Barbados has a vested interest in ensuring that people from other parts of the Caribbean visit this country. Our largest source market for tourism is Britain, our second largest is the United States and our third largest is CARICOM, so we have a vested interest in people being able to get here and get here at economical rates,” he told party supporters.
He went on to say that Barbados pays millions of dollars annually to American Airlines to get that carrier to bring passengers from the United States to Barbados and vice versa, and argued that his administration could not in good conscience support the US-based carrier “which does not belong to us, and turn its back on REDjet”.
Last month, St Kitts and Nevis Tourism Minister Richard Skerritt urged regional governments to help the carrier return to the skies.
Skerritt, who is also chairman of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), said that there is a “pent-up” demand for air travel in the region, especially with the spiralling cost of regional airlift.