CAL pricing probe complete

Complaints Commissioner John Epp said Friday that his office had finished gathering evidence in its investigation into whether Cayman Airways ripped off passengers who were evacuating the island ahead of Hurricane Dean in August.

Mr. Epp said staff would now begin an analysis of the evidence and expected to have a written report finished within a month.

That analysis will include sifting through thousands of airline tickets sold in the days before Dean struck, and determining whether those flights were sold at the airline’s advertised rates.

The OCC investigation also included interviews with CAL Board Chairperson Angelyn Hernandez, Tourism Minister Charles Clifford, Cayman Airways CEO Patrick Strasburger, various company officials and IT personnel.

Staff of the airline’s pricing and tariffs unit were interviewed in Miami. Travel agents and customers were also questioned by OCC.

‘Special attention was given to the central reservation system, SABRE, and the data and flight inventory logged in that system,’ Mr. Epp wrote in an e-mail to the Caymanian Compass. ‘Evidence was gathered from officials in Dallas who operate the SABRE system for the various airlines. This evidence was analysed by local experts with the firm Krys and Associates.’

Mr. Epp said his investigators were given full cooperation by all parties involved.

Mr. Strasburger has previously said that a computer glitch during the evacuation caused prices on about 100 tickets to go higher than they were programmed to do. He said the difference between what was charged for those tickets and the airline’s advertised prices would be refunded to customers.

Citing the on going OCC investigation, Cayman Airways officials have not responded to questions about how much money has been paid back to customers so far.

The airline evacuated some 5,300 people from Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac just before Dean struck. CAL flights to Miami airport during that time had been set at US $169 plus tax for a one-way fare; and US $249 plus tax for one-way charter flights.

The Caymanian Compass received one report of an adult and child paying US $2,500 for their tickets to Miami during the evacuation.

The complaints commissioner’s report is also expected to include a review of Cayman Airways’ pricing policy, its process of adjusting prices, and the airline’s ticket and distribution policy.

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