Caribbean Airlines Limited is the state-owned airline and flag carrier of Trinidad and Tobago. Headquartered in Iere House in Piarco, the airline operates flights to the Caribbean, North America, Central America and South America from its base at Piarco International Airport. Presently Caribbean Airlines employs more than 1,700 people and is the largest airline in the Caribbean.
Caribbean Airlines was incorporated in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on 27 September 2006.
In September 2006, following the recommendation of Peter Davies, the CEO of BWIA West Indies Airways, Caribbean Airlines got approval from the Trinidad and Tobago government to begin operations, after the failed negotiations between the unions and the management of its predecessor, BWIA. As a result, it was announced on 8 September 2006, that BWIA was to be shut down before the launch of Caribbean Airlines. During the last quarter of 2006, in an effort to scale down operations for the start of Caribbean Airlines, BWIA's management cut routes such as Manchester Airport, London Heathrow Airport, New York City and Toronto, with intermediate stops at Barbados or Antigua, ceased services to and from Saint Lucia, cut its fleet to six Boeing 737-800 aircraft retrofitted with wingtip devices (winglets) and reduced its staff to 800, with a majority of the staff former BWIA workers now contracted.
Caribbean Airlines began operations with a fleet of six Boeing 737-800 aircraft and one Airbus A340-313, operating the London Heathrow route until May 2007. The airline offered two classes of service, first/business class and economy class on both the Boeing and Airbus aircraft. Caribbean Airlines operated daily direct services to Miami, Toronto, New York, Jamaica (with stops in Barbados and Antigua/St. Maarten), Guyana, Suriname and London Heathrow till May 2007 due to the ICC 2007 Cricket World Cup, all out of its hub at Piarco International Airport. Peter Davies resigned from his position as CEO, effective 30 September 2007, but remained as a strategic advisor to Caribbean Airlines. In the first half of 2007, two Airbus A340-300 planes and a Boeing 737 Next Generation Boeing 737-800, 9Y-GND, were returned to International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) and GE Commercial Aviation Services (GECAS), respectively.
On 1 October 2007, Philip Saunders, Star Alliance VP Commercial, was appointed the new Chief Executive Officer of Caribbean Airlines. Subsequently, the airline took over operations of Tobago Express, its domestic arm at a cost of US$24 million with the intentions to upgrade the fleet of Bombardier Dash-8 Q300 to international standards and also adding new Caribbean destinations to be served via this regional airline subsidiary.
In March 2008, the airline added a daily direct service to the Simón Bolívar International Airport in Caracas, using the Dash 8 aircraft. In May 2008, Caribbean Airlines acquired a seventh Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The airline added a new U.S. route on 22 May to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport from Piarco International Airport. This route began operations on a four times per week schedule and later in July of the same year, the frequency was increased to daily service.
On 15 November 2008, Transavia Airlines agreed to operate a wet-lease operation on behalf of Caribbean Airlines, it increased its fleet to eight Boeing 737-800. The aircraft was re-fitted to the standard 16/138 configuration including an extra nine inches of seat pitch in the business class cabin, due to a different galley and closet placement. This allowed the airline to increase flight frequency to meet demand for the peak travel periods. The lease was contracted to be in effect until 15 April 2009. The aircraft was returned in June 2009, and Sun Country Airlines, a U.S. air carrier, then leased a Boeing 737-800 to Caribbean Airlines.
In April 2009, the airline increased its frequency of service to Simón Bolívar International Airport in Caracas from a daily service to ten flights per week. The route was operated by the Bombardier Dash-8 Q300, configured for 50 passengers in an all economy service. Daily flights to its gateways Fort Lauderdale and Miami continued. Services to Toronto and New York City remained at twice daily and 20 weekly (up to 28 weekly in peak season), respectively.
On 27 July 2009, Philip Saunders announced his resignation as CEO of Caribbean Airlines, due to personal reasons. Caribbean Airlines appointed Captain Ian Brunton in October 2009 as CEO of the airline. Also in 2009, Caribbean Airlines operated services from the southern Caribbean to Jamaica, as well as South America, including Suriname, Guyana and Venezuela. The airline also continued to serve the United States and Canada, in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, New York City and Toronto, having also established a codeshare agreement with British Airways, for services to London and beyond. As of 2009, the airline operated a fleet of eight Boeing 737-800 aircraft and five Bombardier Dash-8 Q300 aircraft, out of its main hub at Piarco International Airport, Trinidad. The Dash 8 aircraft have since been replaced with new ATR 72-600 propjets.
Caribbean Airlines Limited, through the government of Trinidad and Tobago, announced plans to operate a base in Jamaica following the divestment of Air Jamaica which was slated to occur between 30 April 2010 to that same period in 2011. Caribbean Airlines is providing a seamless transition following Air Jamaica's closure. When the deal is finalized, Caribbean Airlines Limited will become the largest airline in the Caribbean with a new hub in Kingston Jamaica's Norman Manley International Airport. The divestment was scheduled to become effective on 30 April 2010 after it was rescheduled from 12 April 2010. On this day, it was planned that Air Jamaica would cease operations and Caribbean Airlines will then acquire the airline's most profitable routes and their remaining six aircraft. Plans were also announced to replace the aircraft fleet with all Boeing 737-800 Next Generation jets.
On 4 March 2010, Caribbean Airlines announced they would terminate their codeshare agreement with British Airways for the Port of Spain-London Gatwick route effective 27 March 2010 thus paving the way for a nonstop service to be operated by Caribbean between Piarco International Airport and London, UK.
On 28 April 2010, Caribbean Airlines Limited and Air Jamaica signed a final agreement for the purchase of Air Jamaica by Caribbean Airlines Limited, following the signing of a letter of intent to merge in January of the same year. The agreement stated that Caribbean would continue operating Air Jamaica's routes and also retain 900 of Air Jamaica's employees. Financing was provided by the government of Trinidad and Tobago, which contributed around $50 million to complete the merger, and Jamaica, which assumed more than $800 million in costs related to the closure of Air Jamaica.
In August 2010, Caribbean Airlines and Air India signed a travel pact for Trinidadians travelling to India. In October, the airline announced a fleet renewal consisting of fifteen (15) Boeing 737-800 Next Generation jets and nine ATR 72-600 turboprop aircraft. The new Boeing jets were intended to replace Air Jamaica's operating fleet of Airbus aircraft.
On 27 May 2011, the acquisition of Air Jamaica was completed, with Finance Minister Winston Dookeran and Jamaican Finance Minister Audley Shaw at the Prime Minister' St. Clair office, signing the shareholding agreement. This agreement allows the Jamaican government to own a 16% stake of Caribbean Airlines Limited. On 28 October 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation fined Caribbean Airlines $60,000 for limiting reimbursements for lost, damaged and delayed baggage to less than consumers were entitled under the Montreal Convention.
Talks have begun between Caribbean Airlines' management and LIAT (Leeward Islands Air Transport, a regional airline operating Dash 8 as well as ATR-42 and ATR-72 turboprop aircraft in the Caribbean) regarding a possible partnership or merger between the two airlines. The former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning had also expressed interest in Cayman Airways also being merged into Caribbean Airlines, but, with the recent changes in government, the future of these plans is uncertain.
According to Chairman of the Board of Caribbean Airlines George Nicholas III, Caribbean Airlines is pursuing a relationship with Star Alliance, the world's largest airline alliance, in an effort to support Jamaican hoteliers.[needs update] It is also reported they are preparing to start a route to Mumbai, but no date has been given. Also, Nicholas announced that Johannesburg, Nigeria, and Brazil are possible contenders for new routes. Chicago and Atlanta are the two new U.S. gateways that are being considered, Nicholas stated.
On 29 March 2013, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) fined the airline $100,000 for not providing passengers with an opportunity to leave a plane that was delayed on the tarmac at New York’s JFK Airport for more than four hours.
In early 2016, the management of Caribbean Airlines has set as an agenda to consider replacing its ATR fleet with comparable turboprops sourced from Bombardier due to persistent reliability problems. The former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Michael Di Lollo described the ATRs as “not mission capable” after they suffered from frequent AOG (Aircraft On Ground) occurrences. On his recommendation, efforts were made to sourcing Dash 8-400 aircraft to replace the carrier's fleet of five ATR72-600s.
Also in early 2016, the airline returned its two Boeing 767-300ER aircraft to their lessor, coinciding with termination of its only European route to London Gatwick Airport on 10 January 2016, as part of a streamlining exercise to remove unprofitable routes.
BWIA's logo was a steelpan. Caribbean Airlines' image is a hummingbird in flight. The image is a reference to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, where the island of Trinidad is known as "the land of the hummingbird". All aircraft in the fleet carry the flag of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the flag of CARICOM.
The airline had four designs on the tails of its de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8 regional aircraft before these twin turboprops were phased out of the fleet (9Y-WIT was not painted), One of the designs raised controversy, due to its usage of the Balisier flower, the symbol of the former ruling People's National Movement political party. The logo was subsequently redesigned without the flower and replaced with fruits. The tail designs featured a steelpan, cricket balls, fruits, corals, fish and butterflies.
Caribbean Airlines has a theme song arranged in a traditional Trinidadian calypso music style. It was originally recorded by Explainer and the song is called "Lorraine". The original lyrics, which talk about a man who needs to escape the cold United States and get back to the Caribbean, were modified to fit Caribbean Airlines.
Upon the airline's launch in January 2006, the airline retained the in-flight magazine, Caribbean Beat, and in-flight video, Caribbean Essence, of its predecessor BWIA. Caribbean Beat has been published since 1991 by Media and Editorial Projects Limited out of Trinidad and Tobago, and Caribbean Essence is produced by JCD & Associates, also out of Trinidad & Tobago.
Additionally, Caribbean Airlines continues to market itself as one of the few airlines still offering complimentary meals and refreshments, as well as two free checked bags. A movie is also shown on long-haul flights. In December 2014, Caribbean Airlines became the first airline to remove its fuel surcharge due to the reduction in jet fuel prices and will introduce charges for a second checked bag, effective 1 February 2015.
The airline's frequent-flyer program is called Caribbean Miles. This program offers many benefits to its members, and there is no joining fee. The three tiers of the program are called Silver, Gold and Executive Gold.
Caribbean Airlines operates scheduled services to the following destinations including incorporated services formerly operated by Air Jamaica.
As of March 2016, the Caribbean Airlines fleet consists of the following aircraft:
Media related to Caribbean Airlines at Wikimedia Commons