Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles was to meet yesterday with officials of Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) to discuss the airline’s $50 Change Fee on flights on the domestic air bridge which it announced on Monday night via an emailed press release.
Charles, who said the December 12 implementation date announced by CAL was “in my respectful view, this is a worst time” to impose this fee in that “at this time the sea bridge is not operating at optimal,” also said there was “a certain amount of discourtesy involved in CAL not seeking to contact me prior to their introduction of this measure and they saw it fit to talk to organisations other than the THA and its secretaries and its chief secretary.”
“In a matter such as this, the Tobago House of Assembly should be invited to a conversation prior so that we could have stated our position,” he said.
Speaking at Wednesday’s post Executive Council media briefing at the Administrative Complex in Calder hall, Charles told reporters he had spoken to Finance Colm Imbert and CAL Chairman Shameer Mohammed, about the Change Fee.
“I was not given the opportunity to speak with CAL prior to CAL’s announcement with this press release. I am advised that on Monday evening, representatives of the airline meet with members of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Tobago Division and an employee of the Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation where that person was
advised by the Administrator to attend (the meeting). The Secretary (Nadine Stewart-Phillips) and Chief Secretary knew nothing of that arrangement,” he said.
Describing the CAL’s Change Fee as “vexing,” Charles added:
“I am saying, one knows the situation between Trinidad and Tobago, where the air bridge represents one of our highways to Trinidad. Therefore, for various reasons Tobagonians need to travel to Trinidad with respect to medical and education. We must have the opportunity to go to the airport to purchase a ticket and have a seat available on one of the flights without penalty,” he said.
“The other issues I will raise is time with respect to cancellation, this (Change Fee) does not speak to that. What if I cancelled a week before? In that circumstance, CAL has every opportunity to put out there that the seat is available. Why not limitations with respect to the time you can afford to cancel without penalty, taking into consideration our circumstances in Tobago?”
Charles said he agreed there was a need to implement measure to prevent abuse of the system but said he expected the Tobago representative on the CAL board, Samuel Henry, to consult with the THA before implementation of the Change Fee, and report to the Tourism Secretary.
“…CAL should have known that there is a Tobago House of Assembly with a Chief Secretary and a Secretary of the Division. Mr Henry as representative of the THA, coming out of the Division of Tourism. I would think that his responsibility is to first liaise with the Secretary of Tourism in respect to issues that arise out of board meetings,” he said.