It is very encouraging to witness a bevy of regional carriers that have already announced or plan to operate or extend flights to and from Barbados including Inter-Caribbean Airlines, Air Antilles, Caribbean Airlines and One Caribbean among others.
Sadly though, not all of them have seemingly promoted the routes, times and fares in sufficient time to ensure there is a reasonable possibility that flights will operate to economic capacity.
Another concern is that several Caribbean leaders have called for a reduction in the deterrent add-on taxes, that Government’s actually imposed previously, but the carriers are still waiting to know what will replace them and at what chargeable levels. This could, of course, dramatically determine the final fare, drive demand and give the operating carriers some hope of reaching viability on these services.
A quick check for instance, on the websites of Air Antilles, One Caribbean, Inter-Caribbean and Caribbean Airlines, where all four have opted to fly the Barbados /St. Lucia route, indicate that the cost of the lowest priced return flights varied by as much as 80 per cent.
Cursory fare comparisons in August are:
- One Caribbean – US$369 (including US$145 taxes),
- Inter-Caribbean – US$320 (including US$172 taxes),
- Caribbean Airlines – US$276 (taxes included but not specified),
- Air Antilles – at US$208 (taxes included but not specified).
Time will tell if there really is the capacity to sustain four or more airlines between these two destinations, at least in the short to middle term and whether price will determine their long term sustainability.
Sadly, search engine sites like GOOGLE Flights are not yet functional within this region, so it’s a fairly laborious process comparing each carrier’s price offerings, making effective marketing even more critical to capture market share.
I also hope that all these airlines will partner with travel agents, tour operators and tourism trade representative bodies, to offer hotel/flight inclusive options.
From my limited time working as a largely unpaid consultant at Carib Express, within three months, our Escape program generated over 22 per cent of the entire airlines turnover. While the airline eventually failed, largely through poor management decisions, Escape clearly demonstrated the market for affordable intra-Caribbean breaks.
From this initiative the very first annual event entirely dedicated to growing intra-regional travel was born and for 8 years the re-DISCOVER the Caribbean Show went on to bring millions of dollars of additional year-round business and hotel occupancy to Barbados.
While the Caribbean generally is perceived as a relatively Covid-19 free zone, this opportunity cannot go un-served, especially until a time, when we achieve anything close to the recovery of airlift from other major markets.
Perhaps this is the perfect scenario for implementing the much discussed travel bubble concept, allowing people to travel within the territories which have demonstrated the unequivocal ability to manage and control the pandemic at minimum risk?
Prior to the submission of this column, each named airlines was emailed and asked to comment and correct any of the information that it contained.