Wednesday, April 17, 2024

OUR CARIBBEAN: The demise and ‘promise’ of a failed REDjet


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 IT IS a pity that REDjet’s sudden collapse has followed months of sustained public relations generated media publicity, focused on stated commitment to low cost fares and on time flights, for  wooing the support of intra-Caribbean travellers with a view to beating the competition.
Read that to mean specifically, LIAT, the sole, authentic intra-regional airline.
It is understandable that REDjet’s leading spokespersons, of both local and foreign origin, would not wish to be reminded of perceived lapses in appropriately acquainting themselves with the policies and regulatory mechanisms governing the regional civil aviation environment prior to “agreements” for the inaugural flights from Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
Or, for that matter, seemingly confusing official rhetoric and “assurances” in preference to “bankable agreements” – as events were to establish.
Prior, that is, to REDjet becoming the latest casualty in lamentable scenarios over the years of failed private and government-owned intra-regional airlines, that has left us, warts and all, with old (56 years) faithful LIAT, whose value to the social, cultural and economic advancement of the eastern and southern Caribbean is yet to be objectively assessed and supported by the majority of CARICOM administrations.
In the circumstances, it is all the more disappointing that there should have come – after weeks of protests in Barbados by members of the public seeking refunds for tickets bought prior to the suspension of all flights – an uncomfortable “assurance” from REDjet’s founder and business development director, Robbie Burns.
Basically it was that the affected ticket holders would be refunded, “as long as the company is successful in its pending lawsuit against the [Barbados] Government and its agencies . . .” (Sunday Sun, July 1). Really?
My understanding is that there is no precedent, at least in the Caribbean, for such a promise by REDjet’s Burns. It smacks of insensitivity, to say the least, towards the Barbados Government and the ticket holders, not to mention workers and suppliers also affected by the sudden shutdown of operations.
In contrast to suffering ticket holders of Barbados, their affected Guyanese counterparts were compensated by the Guyana government based on a bond that REDjet was required to lodge prior to securing a licence to operate there.                      
The question is whether similar bonds should not be a core feature of any operational agreement, with any airline (local, regional or international)? For now, we await the outcome of the 33rd CARICOM Summit that concludes in Castries today on the future of regional air transportation and, more specifically, that of LIAT.
Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist. Email


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