Hugh Riley Calls for Open Skies Policy in CARICOM Airspace

LIAT1The Jamaica Observer carried a story on the 29 September 2015 – CTO wants open skies policy in the Caribbean . Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Hugh Riley called for regional authorities “to institute an Open Skies policy”.


Such a policy he posited would encourage regional carriers to fly unrestricted to all Caricom destinations, encourage growth between carriers, elimination of secondary screening leading to greater demand for regional travel.

The part of Riley’s speech delivered at the World Routes Forum 2015 in Durban that needs clarification is when he called for the amendment to the Multilateral Air Services Agreement to be finalized. Such an agreement in his view would “facilitate unlimited third, fourth, and fifth freedom of traffic rights for scheduled passenger services from and between international airports and sub-regions”. There is however the other side of Riley’s view which says an Open Skies policy would negatively impact regional carriers. Especially LIAT!

The question BU directs at Hugh Riley therefore: if American Airlines, Delta, Air Canada and other internationals are given the right of passage to island-hop through the Caribbean – stopping and picking up and carrying passengers inter-island – how will it impact regional airlines like LIAT, InselAir, Cayman Airways and others.

The airline business is highly specialized  and the vagaries of servicing the Caribbean makes managing routes a challenge. One can only hope Riley’s position is informed.

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7 Comments on “Hugh Riley Calls for Open Skies Policy in CARICOM Airspace”

  1. Gabriel September 30, 2015 at 6:43 AM #

    I recall reading in the Economist in the ’80s that there is a Treaty signed between the UK and the US governments permitting each others’ carriers access to the airline routes of the former colonies in the Caribbean,so that BA can resume flights from NY to Bdos anytime without the need to observe what the article referred to as cabotage,the ability to pick and
    /or let down passengers between the said territories,so that LIAT can be impacted now without so much as a whisper legally.As I understand it,a carrier makes money when flying and loses concomitantly, when having to land and take off too often as is the case with the island hopping LIAT.A solution might lie in a comfortable fast ferry service as obtains in the Virgin Islands.I travelled from St Thomas USVI to Tortola BVI on an airconditioned,modern ferry outfitted with TV service and captained by an ocean going certified 24 year old which did the run in 1h45m.


  2. Dompey September 30, 2015 at 4:48 PM #

    I’ve made a personal commitment not to comment on this blog any long, but I guess my appetite for the good collegiate discourse has gotten the best of me.

    Nevertheless, it amazes me how some people can get on social-media, and make these preposterous prenouncements in want of or devoid of the supportive as well as corroborative evidence regarding a certain claim or claims, and then expect intelligent people to accept them at face-value. Especially when the those claims are brought forth on the basis of the memory, an unreliable source of information which those of us who are in the vale of age are cognizant of.


  3. James Lynch October 1, 2015 at 2:46 PM #

    Caribbean Tourism Organization Wants Reform of Air Travel Regime
    September 30,2015


    The Caribbean Tourism Organization on Tuesday urged regional authorities to foster competition among carriers through an “Open Skies” policy and to work toward eliminating secondary security screening at airports in Caribbean Community member-states.

    Open Skies would allow regional carriers, including LIAT, Caribbean Airlines, Air Antilles, Winair, SVG Air, InselAir, Hummingbird Air, Seaborne Airlines and Air Caraïbes, to fly without restriction within CARICOM, CTO Secretary General Hugh Riley said in a statement.

    In a speech last week at the World Routes 2015 forum in Durban, South Africa, Riley called for major collaboration in intelligence sharing and security processing.

    “Cooperation in these areas will encourage and facilitate greater investment by airlines into and across the Caribbean region. Better connectivity means greater economic benefits,” Riley said.

    Headquartered in Barbados, the CTO’s mission is to provide services and information for the development of sustainable tourism to benefit the people of the Caribbean.

    The CTO includes the governments of 30 nations and territories.

    CARICOM comprises Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

    Actually, what he DID say was, “facilitate unlimited third, fourth, and fifth freedom of traffic rights for scheduled passenger services from and between international airports and sub-regions within CARICOM”.

    In other words, open access to unlimited third, fourth, and fifth freedoms of the air (definitions are below from to open up every route within CARICOM to every Tom, Dick, Harry, Thomas, Ricardo, Henri, Justin, Hans, Gretel, Pepe, Gaston and every other nationality on earth to carry passengers, cargo and anything else they want as often as they want.

    If he meant only CARICOM Carriers, then he should have educated himself on the Freedoms Of The Air and said so, and within a CARICOM meeting. But he said it in Durbam, South Africa, on an international podium, and THAT means he is inviting every other carrier in the world to come and compete with CARICOM carriers within CARICOM.

    If you still do not understand what that means, try Air Canada taking passengers between Antigua and Barbados. Try American taking passengers between St. Maarten and St. Kitts. Try Virgin Atlantic taking passengers between Trinidad and Grenada. Try Seaborne taking passengers between Haiti and Providenciales. Try Delta taking passengers between Jamaica and Cuba. Try Lufthansa taking passengers between Santo Domingo and Curacao.

    This suggestion is nothing less than openly inviting non-regional international carriers with deep pockets to destroy our regional carriers piecemeal, and if our Prime Ministers think it is a good idea, then they REALLY have no use for any of our own regional carriers and – because of the costs over the decades – have no respect whatsoever for their constituent taxpayers.

    Freedoms of the air apply to commercial aviation. The terms ‘freedom’ and ‘right’ are a shorthand way of referring to the type of international services permitted between two or more countries. Even when such services are allowed by countries, airlines may still face restrictions to accessing them by the terms of treaties or for other reasons.

    Freedom – Description

    - Example

    1st – the right to fly over a foreign country without landing

    - Toronto–Mexico City by a Canadian company, overflying the USA
    - or, Toronto–Antigua by a Canadian company, overflying the USA

    2nd – the right to refuel or carry out maintenance in a foreign country without embarking or disembarking passengers or cargo

    - Toronto–Mexico City by a Canadian company, stopping for fuel in the USA
    - or, Toronto–Barbados by a Canadian company, stopping for fuel in the USA

    3rd – the right to fly from one’s own country to another

    - Toronto–Chicago by a Canadian company
    - or, Antigua–Chicago by an Antiguan company

    4th – the right to fly from another country to one’s own

    - Toronto–Chicago by a US company
    - or, Toronto–Antigua by an Antiguan company

    5th – the right to fly between two foreign countries on a flight originating or ending in one’s own country

    - Doha–Bangkok–Kuala Lumpur by a Qatari company
    - or, San Juan-Antigua-Barbados by a US company
    - or, Toronto-Kingston-Port Of Spain by a Canadian company
    - or, London-Barbados-Montego Bay by a UK company
    - or, Frankfurt-St. Lucia-Barbados by a German company
    - or, Guadeloupe (EU)-Barbados-London (EU) by a French company

    As Norwegian Air is teaching the Americans – right now, at this present moment – playing fast and loose with route rights, permissions and Treaties because you want a few more passengers is a stupid political game fraught with disastrous and usually unforeseen financial consequences to the public and private sectors.

    A la Norwegian… … new-routes

    Norwegian steps up pressure on DOT with new routes
    Alan Dron
    Sep 25, 2015

    Low-cost, long-haul carrier Norwegian Air International (NAI) has announced a series of new transatlantic routes, despite the continued reluctance by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to grant it a license for Europe-US services.

    NAI has announced plans to launch services from Cork, in the Irish Republic, to both Boston and New York. It also plans a new Cork-Barcelona route. The Boston and Barcelona routes—both amounting to four or five weekly rotations—have been penciled in for May 2016, with New York following in 2017.

    The Boston and New York routes will be served initially by a Boeing 737-800, then by a 737 MAX when Norwegian starts to receive the new variant.

    Plans for the new routes were confirmed Sept. 25 in a letter from Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos to Ireland’s Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe.

    “We are delighted to offer a long-awaited service from the US to Cork and the southern parts of Ireland, which will create huge business, leisure and tourism opportunities,” Kjos predicted.

    “This is only the beginning of our plans for new routes in Ireland, but our expansion relies on the US Department of Transportation finally approving Norwegian Air International’s application for a foreign carrier permit. Only DOT approval for NAI will unlock the door for these exciting new routes, creating more competition, more choice and better fares for business and leisure passengers on both sides of the Atlantic.”

    NAI has been awaiting a license from the DOT for a considerable period. US (and some European) airlines and unions have objected strongly to NAI’s proposed transatlantic service, accusing it of basing its long-haul operations in Ireland and using Asian crews to get around Norway’s strict labor laws. NAI denies the accusation.

    A Norwegian spokesman in London told ATW there was no sign of any movement yet from DOT on the question of approvals, “but we hope that these new flights show our commitment to providing low-cost transatlantic services from Ireland.”


    on Sep 25, 2015

    If, as seems quite possible these DoT permissions are not forthcoming, Norwegian is good JG to face a number of serious issues. It’s far from making money in a long term profitable way. This could prove to be extremely damaging.

    on Sep 25, 2015

    Service to Cork was a missed opportunity for US carriers… smart move by Norwegian!

    on Sep 26, 2015
    DOT should stop dragging its feet and decide - one way or another - real soon. Very anti-competitive not to give Norwegian the permission to fly. US carriers wield too much power on DOT. What a shame!

    From LinkedIn

    Juan Alberto Martin Mora
    First DOT focused on Gulf carriers, now Norgewian, ... who will be next?? ...

    5 days ago

    David Appleby
    Reneging on open sky agreements whilst very disappointing was always going to be inevitable some day...once there is a serious threat to the home grown carriers' market shares and profits, it was always going to end up like this. Open skies are great in principle but, as we can see, are not too easy to maintain, in practice.


  4. James Lynch October 1, 2015 at 2:57 PM #

    Norwegian’s “trick”?

    Norway belongs to the European Community… so do Martinique and Guadeloupe (France), Turks & Caicos and the Cayman Islands (UK) as well as the Dutch islands. So Norwegian is driving a wedge into the US traffic between the French islands and the USA, maybe the others will follow. Norwegian is also adding to the competition to American carriers across the Atlantic.

    The US carriers always have everything their own way – they even fight LIAT to San Juan with three times the flights, but still want to kick LIAT off the route. That a European carrier is suddenly using established Treaties (which are full of holes) to operate over routes traditionally served by American carriers has them all up in arms.

    Back to the point, though, putting the CTO’s suggestions into law would in a short time kill the regional carriers, because the internationals would cherry-pick the profitable routes and leave the regionals with the ones that lose money.

    Can you say “double down on the regional taxpayer”??


  5. Due Diligence October 1, 2015 at 3:49 PM #

    The World Route Development Forum attracted senior representatives from airlines, airports and tourism authorities who meet to plan and discuss new and existing global air services. It is organized by the aviation route development company, Routes.

    CTO member countries Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the Turks and Caicos Islands attended this year’s event.

    And Barbados?


  6. Gabriel October 1, 2015 at 6:58 PM #

    Barbados?Not since EWB and Bree St John, has Barbados political class understood the nuances of aviation or tourism.


  7. James Lynch October 1, 2015 at 9:11 PM #

    For a senior Caribbean regional Executive to appear at an international forum and talk about flinging wide the intra-regional doors to every interested international carrier is no less than a slap in the face to every regional taxpayer whose money has ever been put towards any of the national or regional airlines.

    ESPECIALLY at this time when LIAT is on the verge of closing and needs all the help it can get to turn around (although the very same politicians seem to be destroying it).

    Caribbean Airlines, Cayman Airways, BahamasAir and every other CARICOM local and regional carrier is threatened with facing carriers with unlimited resources if the politicians take his advice and follow through.

    As an aviation person who fully understands what Mr. Riley has offered up on behalf of the CTO, I am deeply disgusted. HOW in the name of Heaven do the politicians expect to encourage entrepreneurship and advancement of our own people when individuals like this are ready to sell it all off for a few pieces of silver?

    I will allow that perhaps I have misunderstood what Mr. Riley was offering, but I am going by his reported words, and those words are very clear to me.

    At this rate, CARICOM will also be history shortly after LIAT disappears.


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