Caribbean Airlines chairman Shameer Mohammed says as of now, there will be no change in the decision to implement a $50 change fee unless the airline is provided with meaningful alternatives to deal with “the high level of no shows on the air bridge by passengers holding confirmed bookings.”
Responding to questions from Guardian Media, Mohammed said the airline held discussions with stakeholders before the decision was made on the change fee. CAL, he said, also “meets on a continuous basis with the THA and will continue to do so.”
There has been harsh criticism about the $50 change fee, due to take effect on December 12, with many describing it as unfair in light of inefficiencies on the air bridge.
But Mohammed said CAL is “consistently” looking at ways to “improve service on the air bridge.” A critical part of improving efficiency, he said, “is hinged on traveller patterns as it relates to no shows on the air bridge.”
He advised customers to “also bear in mind that the airfare on the air bridge remains one of the lowest in the industry.” The air bridge is subsidised by the Government and the cost of a ticket is $300.
But Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles has expressed grave concern at the introduction of a change fee to the domestic air bridge. He said the penalty does not seem reasonable or fair to the passenger and had asked CAL to review the matter after indicating his concerns to Minister of Finance Colm Imbert and Mohammed.
Members of the People’s Democratic Party also voiced concern at press conference in Scarborough on Tuesday, where THA Minority Councillor Dr Faith B Yisrael said CAL management had no regard for Tobagonians.
Noting they were treating the domestic route like a regional or international route, she said: “For the average Tobagonian this is our way of life, this is our bread and butter, this is a way of travelling because we simply do not have access to many of the services that the average Trinidadian has access to. So for us this is going to be something that is going to be critical to us, this is something that’s going to make a difference in our pockets because to the average person that kind of flight change or date change will take place once a week or twice a week.”
The Tobago Chamber of Commerce also voiced its concern at a press conference, where Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association president Chris James called the penalty a logistical nightmare for 7,000 passengers due to come into the island during this season.