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Travel agent on fuel subsidy removal: Government ploy to inject more $$ into CAL
Former president of the Travel Agents Association Wayne Rodriguez says the Government’s removal of Caribbean Airlines’s $50 million fuel subsidy is just a front to make more cash injections to keep the national carrier afloat. Rodriguez, chairman of Chartours International Ltd and owner of Four Seasons Travel Service, was responding to Finance Minister Larry Howai’s announcement in the budget that CAL’s fuel subsidy would be removed.
Howai said on Monday that the removal of the fuel subsidy would not affect the ticket-pricing policy and Government would continue to subsidise the Tobago airbridge. Yesterday, however, Rodriguez said what Howai has done in this budget by removing the fuel subsidy “is to pacify not only the governments of the Caribbean, but the United States as well.” He added that the removal of the subsidy was the Government’s response to pressure from the US and Caribbean countries.
Rodriguez said with no fuel subsidy, questions raised about the fuel prices CAL enjoyed would be silenced. “Instead of giving them a fuel subsidy, they are now going to give them a cash injection, and those cash injections will continue and will replace what we know as the fuel subsidy. It is just that,” he said. “It will not be called a fuel subsidy. They are not fooling anybody, they are not fooling me.”
He said cash injections would continue to be made to CAL to keep it afloat. Rodriguez said he does not expect a ticket price increase because of the removal of the fuel subsidy, since CAL ticket prices are already expensive. “They are offering (prices) which I consider to be high at this time,” he said. “Over the summer, in June, July, August, their fares were extremely high, not to mention the Caribbean—those fares were very exorbitant. “I cannot see them increasing fares. To increase fares now would mean very, very few people travelling.”
Rodriguez complained that Liat and Caribbean Airlines have always taken advantage of their regional positions. “They both have been taking advantage of the travelling public throughout the Caribbean,” he said. “There is no need for these fares to be this high, since they have held the monopoly, both Liat and Caribbean Airlines prices have been high and unjustified in my book.” He lamented that if CAL sticks to its Air Jamaica deal it would continue to be a “drain on the Treasury.”
“The Air Jamaica deal is a very bad deal and it will continue to be a very bad deal,” he said.
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