Caribbean Airlines Undecided on Long-Haul Route Closure

Caribbean Airlines is reportedly poised to exit the long-haul market completely to concentrate on services to the US and Canada. The UK flights have been in operation for three years but have failed to make money in the face of competition from established UK carriers.

An election in Trinidad on Monday may decide the future of Caribbean Airlines’ flights to the island from Gatwick, reports TTG Media, after suggestions the carrier will suspend all long-haul operations were quashed by island officials.

Caribbean Airlines is reportedly poised to exit the long-haul market completely to concentrate on services to the US and Canada. The UK flights have been in operation for three years but have failed to make money in the face of competition from established UK carriers.

The government-owned carrier was reported to be ending its Gatwick-Port of Spain service at the end of the forthcoming winter season in early 2016, but a spokeswoman for the islands told the publication nothing had been finalised. “It won’t be confirmed for another couple of weeks until after the election,” she added.

The national airline of Trinidad and Tobago has a strong regional network with scheduled flights between other Island nations in the Caribbean. The airline's network also reaches to Miami, New York and Canada, alongside the link to London Gatwick which was introduced in June 2012.

Its launch to London represented the resumption of the first regular direct service between Trinidad and the UK since Caribbean Airlines predecessor BWIA West Indies Airways ended its long-haul flights into Europe. However, although it remains the sole non-stop provider between London and both Trinidad and Tobago, it competes with British Airways flights to Port of Spain via St Lucia and Tobago via Antigua and Virgin Atlantic Airways’ services to Tobago via St Lucia.

Our analysis of Sabre Airport Data Intelligence demand statistics shows that passenger demand between the UK and Trinidad and Tobago has rebounded after declining in the late 2000s and early 2010s due in part to reduced capacity and the Economic situation in Europe, but also due to rising Air Passenger Duty (APD) on flights from the UK.

After a ten year low of just over 75,000 bi-directional O&D passengers flying between the countries in 2009, demand has almost doubled over the past five years to just over 140,000 in 2014, the highest level for the past ten years. Caribbean Airlines has played a role in the stimulation of the market carrying an estimated 105,000 passengers between the UK and Trinidad and Tobago since it introduced its long-haul services.