CAL under probe
By NEWSDAY STAFF Wednesday, October 17 2012
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FIT FOR FLIGHT: One of the two Boeing 767 aircraft being leased from Land Chile for Caribbean Airline (CAL)'s London route. CAL assured the aircraft i...
THE United States Department of Transport, charged with overseeing all aspects of air transportation in that country, has started an investigation into why a Caribbean Airlines (CAL) aircraft spent more than four hours on the runway of the JFK International Airport in New York before departing for Trinidad.
If CAL is found guilty of any breach of American air transportation laws initiated during the current Obama administration, Trinidad and Tobago taxpayers may have to foot very hefty fines that would be quoted in US dollars.
The US Passenger Bill of Rights, which took effect in 2010, makes it an offence for any aircraft to be grounded with passengers for more than four hours. On August 15, CAL flight, BW421, with 154 passengers was grounded for four hours and 28 minutes at JFK due to bad weather conditions and traffic on the runway. The plane also had to eventually refuel as the time the aircraft spent idling, its fuel became exhausted. Chairman of Caribbean Airlines Rabindra Moonan said there was a further delay when the aircraft went back toward the terminal after it was given a “wrong staircase.”
The staircase was to allow passengers to get off the plane and wait in a bus but after the right staircase was brought there was no canopy to shelter passengers from the rain. After it was brought most passengers chose to remain on board due to the weather.
Moonan said the airline has not been fined by the US Department of Transport but confirmed the agency was carrying out an inquiry into whether the law was adhered to and whether passengers were fed, given water and regular announcements made to keep passengers informed of what was happening.
“Caribbean Airlines has responded...we are supplying all the necessary information. There seems to be some hysteria in that the Department of Transportation has not fined the airline,” Moonan said. Asked whether anyone had fallen ill and had to be removed from the flight, Moonan said this did not happen. “There is an ongoing transfer of information and CAL is awaiting clarification from the Department of Transportation,” he said. The airline has handed over the purser’s report, captain’s report and log. Under the US Passenger Bill of Rights, if found in breach, CAL could be fined as much as US$25,000 per passenger.
Finance Minister Larry Howai, under whose portfolio CAL falls yesterday said the information he received indicated the airline did what it could do under the circumstances. “There is an investigation going on by the Department of Transport which has not come to any conclusion as far as I am aware,” he said in a television interview. Howai said an audit of CAL would be given to him before the end of this month. It will contain operational risks, financial review of the company and projections for the future.