CAL welcomes first B-767
By Vernon Khelawan Thursday, August 30 2012
WITH the London service doing as well as it is to date, senior executives of Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) are all wearing broad smiles of satisfaction, which became much broader as they gathered in a hangar at the Piarco International Airport on Tuesday afternoon to welcome the carrier’s first Boeing-767, acquired especially for the transAtlantic service to London Gatwick (LGW).
A technical team headed by Director of Maintenance and Engineering, Colville Carrington, accompanied the aircraft on its flight from Mexico to Trinidad. It was flown by a Boeing pilot assisted by a local CAL pilot. The second B-767 is expected today.
Both planes, painted in CAL’s colours, complete with humming bird logo and livery, have been sitting in a hangar at a Mexican airport for the last three months, while aviation oversight problems were being sorted out by the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA). The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) audit last month, was prompted by certain deficiencies in oversight regulations, but it turned up nothing of major consequence.
According to acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Robert Corbie, since its launch on June 14 the London service has been doing very well. “In July our load factor averaged 76 percent throughout the month, while the August data is forecasting a jump to probably a little over 80 per- cent.”
Chairman Rabindra Moonan shared his optimism with Business Day and said the high load factors being experienced reflected that “the travelling public is once more building confidence in the airline and his board and management intends to keep capitalising on that.”
He even boasted that a week ago he was truly happy when he was told that Business Class (30 seats) had been completely sold out on a flight to London. Moonan said the data regarding the London services being presented to him, made him feel very positive about the upcoming Christmas season.
The arrival of the first B-767 – a new aircraft type to the CAL fleet — has been leased from Chilean airline Lan Chile, means that as soon as those aircraft are put on line, Caribbean Airlines would experience substantial savings in its operations, because it means no more dependency on the current B-767 leased from the Omni Aircraft Leasing company in Maryland in the United States and now being used to operate the London services.
Addition of the two B-767-300ERs to its fleet gives CAL its fourth aircraft type. The airline now operates two types of turbo prop aircraft (Dash-8-300s and ATR-72-600s) for its short haul services and B-737s and B-767s for its major international destinations, which include New York, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Toronto and now London.
None of the two aircraft would be able to be pressed into service until they get the final green light from the TTCAA. Speaking to Business Day earlier this week Director General of the CAA, Ramesh Lutchmedial forecast that their work should be completed before the end of September and CAL would be granted its “operational specifications” for both aircraft.
Corbie said that during this down time period, while awaiting certification, the company would make use of the planes for training and refresher training for both cockpit and cabin crews. Asked about the deployment of the B-767s on other CAL routes, Corbie said they would be used from time to time to service the carrier’s North American destinations of Toronto in Canada and New York.
Moonan also disclosed he recently held discussions with the Indian High Commissioner to Port-of-Spain regarding possible service to India through a codeshare with Air India. A technical team from CAL is expected to visit India shortly. Prospects are also being looked at regarding some kind of air linkage with Nigeria.
Moonan also hinted that talks would soon be held regarding initiating services to Central America beginning with Panama and which could include cities in Brazil. “All these are in the pipeline,” he added.