KEVON FELMINE & SASCHA WILSON
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PM agrees to consider CAL penalties
Government is looking at imposing a penalty on defaulting passengers on the Tobago airbridge who cancel their tickets. This measure was proposed by a delegation of Tobago House of Assembly officials, led by Chief Secretary Orville London, during yesterday’s meeting with a central Government team. Led by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the team included acting Attorney General Prakash Ramadhar, Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz and Trade Minister Vasant Bharath.
The meeting, at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, was the first between the sides in over a year. In a media conference afterwards, Persad-Bissessar said the THA delegation expressed concern over passengers booking flights and cancelling, resulting in Caribbean Airlines (CAL) running flights that were not full. She said Bharath was instructed to discuss with stakeholders, including CAL and the Civil Aviation Authority, the possibility of introducing a cancellation fee. “A cancellation should result in some kind of penalty to be charged, something to be looked at, to ensure we fully utilise the aircraft,” the PM said, noting it may also be considered for the seabridge.
She said a method was to be explored to avoid duplicate bookings by passengers who later cancel. London, she said, told the meeting he had no difficulty with such a penalty being imposed, noting that the situation occurs while scores of passengers waiting on standby are denied those empty seats from the cancellations. Persad-Bissessar said the Cabinet is to meet in special session next month in Tobago and all members of the People’s National Movement-controlled THA will be invited to discuss issues affecting the island. She said the way forward for internal self-government should be advanced at the meeting, scheduled for mid-November.
London said he suggested all stakeholders should meet to advance the matter and no one should stake a claim. “We should stop operating in silos, which is what has been happening. The THA does something, a political party does something, the central Government does something and we end up competing against each other,” he said. “Once we do it together no single entity could claim it.”
Secession not an issue
In response to a question, London said the issue of Tobago seceding from Trinidad was never an issue for consideration, and the internal self-government process was being developed on the basis that “the sovereign, democratic state of T&T must remain united.” He said if a poll were to be done on the island on the issue of secession, “You would find that maybe less than five per cent of Tobagonians even consider that as a serious option.”
During the meeting, London also told Persad-Bissessar the Tobago Development Minister had been operating in breach of the THA Act. He said the ministry, which is headed by Tobago West MP Dr Delmon Baker, “is operating way in excess of its mandate and the schedule given to it by the Prime Minister. It is undermining the authority and integrity of the THA. “The process is becoming more and more strident as we speak and is creating serious challenges for us in the THA.” In response, the PM said she would investigate, saying she “would not condone illegality and we’d be bound by the law as contained in the THA Act.”
CAL: Penalties normal
Airline sources said yesterday that such a fee was common in the industry, and CAL may be the only airline that does not have such a penalty. They suggested that a $50 penalty could be charged for cancellations.
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