National airline Cayman Airways has been in preliminary talks with neighbour airline Air Jamaica in a bid to try to operate better and more cost effectively.
The meeting, on Monday 30 June, came about as a result of the challenges the airline industry is currently facing through unprecedented fuel prices and system-wide flight reductions by US carriers.
‘The meeting was a preliminary discussion to see how we might co-operate to reduce operating costs and improve service to our respective countries,’ said emailed comments to the Caymanian Compass from Minister Clifford and CAL Board Chairperson Angelyn Hernandez.
‘This dialogue would have been a smart approach at any time, but given the current environment and the challenges the aviation industry faces, it is particularly prudent that we explore co-operation to improve our purchasing powers and negotiating positions on things such as fuel for example.
‘Airlines to the north have co-operated to varying degrees even without the same obligations and risks to their home-based economies.’
They noted that there is no change to the mandate of Cayman Airways, and that they are simply trying to operate better and more cost effectively.
While the Minister did give one example of improving purchasing powers on things such as fuel, he noted that after one meeting, it is premature to say what, if any, co-operation may be achieved amongst the two airlines.
The discussions come on the heels of a meeting of Ministers of Tourism and International Transportation held in Antigua a few weeks ago, where both airlines were present, and a meeting chaired by Minister Clifford in Washington DC on 24 June.
The meetings were convened to discuss the crisis which the Caribbean region is now facing from the fallout in airlift, as a result of the spiralling increases in the price of fuel and associated challenges in the airline industry and the role of regional carriers in such an environment.
The meeting in Antigua resulted in an agenda of unity to tackle the problem within the region, rather than each country attempting to address the crisis on its own.
Airline challenges were also to be discussed by CARICOM heads at their meeting in Antigua on 2 July, which Minister Clifford attended.