REDjet says CAL protection blocking Jamaica flights

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday May 13, 2011 – Jamaican authorities are saying little about what’s causing the delay in REDjet starting flights there, but the low-cost carrier has been saying a lot about what it says is a move by Caribbean Airlines (CAL) –  which is still finalizing its merger with Air Jamaica –  to block its service.

The Barbados-registered airline had been scheduled to start Jamaica flights on Wednesday, but REDjet’s Business Development Manager Robbie Burns sent an email to booked passengers informing them that “due to political and regulatory actions in Jamaica beyond our control, REDjet cannot operate flights between Barbados to Jamaica between 11th May and 24th May”. 

Eight flights had to be cancelled as a result.

Burns did not specify the nature of the political and regulatory actions in the correspondence to customers.

However, in a response to a query on its Facebook page, REDjet said the government of Jamaica had delayed on delivering a commitment made to the airline and that other regional carriers were attempting to delay and deny REDjet previously approved access, in order to prevent competition.

“We are subject to the political whims of other airlines at the moment in Jamaica,” it said in another response.

The Jamaica Observer newspaper today also reported Burns as saying that the holdup had to do with CAL’s attempts to keep REDjet out of the market.

“I can confirm that CAL has objected to REDjet flying to Trinidad and Jamaica as they are claiming that as a designated airline of Barbados that Barbados cannot designate another airline. This was confirmed by a senior member of the Trinidad negotiating team. I cannot confirm that CAL has placed the condition on REDjet not being allowed to fly into Jamaica as a requirement to complete the Air Jamaica acquisition. However we have it from a Ministry official in Jamaica and would trust its credibility,” he said.

“REDjet has been told that despite our application to fly to Jamaica from the 11th of May, the Air Transport Licensing Authority have made it clear that it will now not make a decision on REDjet until the 26th of May. It is fair to say to say that what CAL is looking to do is take over not Air Jamaica but rather exclusive access and control of Jamaican skies and air services. This means that CAL is effectively securing a monopoly to the detriment of the economy and consumer,” Burns added.

The CAL/Air Jamaica merger was expected to be completed by April 30. However, the deadline was missed because of failure to finalise several legal documents, according to media reports.

The Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) has given no details about the situation with REDjet, meantime.

The Jamaica Gleaner has reported that head of the JCAA, Colonel Oscar Derby, said there was a challenge but that such matters were confidential. He told the newspaper he did not want to give a timeline for the matter to be resolved because he did not want to send the wrong message. 

REDjet is still awaiting official word from Trinidad and Tobago authorities for flights there to begin on Sunday, a week after originally scheduled.

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