Safety concerns keeping REDjet grounded
But Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago say all outstanding matters relating to the airline's application to fly to those countries will be speedily addressed by the civil aviation authorities.
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday June 17, 2011 – REDjet’s failure to meet some safety requirements is what’s preventing the airline from starting flights to Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, Transport Ministers from the two countries disclosed yesterday. But the two, along with their Barbadian counterpart, say now that they’re working “in sync”, there should be “a quick approach to a resolution”.
"Arising from the discussions, it was agreed that any and all outstanding matters relating to the airline's application to fly to Jamaica and Trinidad would be speedily addressed by the civil aviation authorities in the respective countries," said a statement issued by Jamaica’s Transport Ministry yesterday after Minister Mike Henry, Trinidad and Tobago’s Works and Transport Minister Austin ‘Jack’ Warner, and Barbados’ International Business and International Transport Minister George Hutson met in Port of Spain on the issue yesterday.
Warner, speaking at a press conference that followed the meeting, added that there would be “one common approach and one common response” by the civil aviation authorities in Kingston and Port of Spain.
The three are expected to report to their prime ministers for final decisions on the way forward.
Although management of the Barbados-based low-cost carrier have complained that the delays were an attempt to protect other regional carriers, Caribbean Airlines and LIAT, from competition, the ministers said safety was the outstanding issue at this stage, although they did not give any specifics.
“One of the legacies we in the Caribbean have is our safety record and we must do nothing to damage our record and if it is taking time, then we will do it,” Warner said.
No dates set
REDjet, which began flying between Barbados and Guyana on May 10, has been waiting for several weeks to get approval to begin service to Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica.
However, it has been met with various obstacles along the way and dates set by the authorities in both countries to make a decision have come and gone without the carrier getting the green light.
In the latest interaction with the media on the REDjet issue, officials shied away from giving exact dates to resolve the lingering problems.
“It could take a week; it could take two,” Warner said.
Barbados’ Minister of International Business and International Transport said he understood the stance of Kingston and Port of Spain.
“It is quite within the rights of Jamaica and Trinidad authorities to do checks. We have to put safety at the forefront. Safety is the over-riding consideration,” he said. “I am sure that once we address those outstanding issues that we will have the aircraft flying between these countries.”
However, Hutson said discussions like yesterday’s came later than they should have.
“Maybe if we had had a meeting like this sometime last year it would have avoided some of what has been said in the press," he noted.
Henry told reporters that yesterday’s meeting provided “a very clear position of where we want to go” as far as regional air travel is concerned, noting that it addressed not only the REDjet issue, but matters related to new routes, economic sustainability, and growth.
Jamaican authorities, including Prime Minister Bruce Golding, had previously acknowledged that part of the delay in giving REDjet approval was to allow Air Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago’s Caribbean Airlines to finalize their merger.
Golding said that since that was done, Jamaica had come under increased pressure to give REDjet the go ahead, but he stressed that his country would not be bullied into making a decision.
Last week, he suggested that the delay of a Caribbean Airlines flight in Barbados was linked to the holdup facing REDjet, describing it “an aggressive action”.
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