CAL’s ATRs for sale
By Vernon Khelawan Thursday, June 28 2012
STATE-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) is looking for sale for four of the nine brand new ATR-72-600 turbo prop aircraft it ordered last year. Those planes are now sitting in hangars at the ATR plant in Toulouse, France.
Business Day learnt earlier this week that a decision has been taken by the CAL management team to sell the planes because the company’s present financial circumstances does not allow it to pay for those aircraft.
The decision is not entirely surprising since former line minister Senator Devant Maharaj had hinted at this possibility during an interview with Business Day more than a month ago, shortly after a CAL delegation had met with two members of the ATR company at Piarco. Maharaj was replaced as Transport Minister in last week’s Cabinet reshuffle by Chandresh Sharma.
The two-man French team had flown to Trinidad for a better understanding as to why CAL was not taking delivery of three planes (at that time) which were sitting at the manufacturers. There are now six aircraft waiting to be delivered to CAL.
At that meeting, Business Day had learned that efforts were being made by the airline to arrange funding with an international banking giant, which had ties to Trinidad and Tobago and results of these funding talks were to have been revealed by the end of June. It would seem however that these discussions on funding have not gone anywhere, forcing the airline to look for sale on the open market.
During the Business Day interview Minister Maharaj said there were airlines in the region which were interested in buying the new planes, but he did not identify any specific country or airline.
Business Day has also learned that the two ATRs delivered last year and now being used on the airbridge service, as well as on some Caribbean flights like St Lucia, Grenada and Caracas, have been regularly grounded due to avionics malfunctioning. It is understood also that this has been brought to the attention of the French manufacturers and this situation might serve as grounds for making downward adjustments to the original (US)$19 million sticker price for each plane. Whether this move has gained any traction in the negotiations remain unknown.
At the beginning of 2011, Caribbean Airlines, in pursuing its re-fleeting programme, were looking at the Canadian manufactured Q-400s, an upgrade from its current fleet of Dash-8-300s and the French-built ATR-72-600.
Business Day reported at that time that the meetings regarding the selection of an aircraft type led to several heated exchanges between senior executives and some board members. Eventually the ATR won out and the airline ordered nine of the ATRs, with two being earmarked for Air Jamaica operations and the remaining seven for its airbridge and other Caribbean services, including Caracas, Guyana and Suriname. Caribbean Airlines took delivery of its first ATR in November 2011 and the second arrived in December, and the deal was that one aircraft would be delivered every month until July 2012. But then CAL fell upon on some serious financial problems and has not been able to take delivery of any more of the ATRs, six of which are now sitting in a hangar in France.
Also sitting in a hangar, this time in Mexico, are two B-767ER-200 aircraft leased by the company from Chilean airline LAN Chile, to operate its Port-of-Spain-London GTW service which was launched two weeks ago. These planes have not been certified and cannot now be used by CAL for any service. However, an official of the Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA) has all but assured Business Day that the certification process should be completed by the end of July.