Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) has been accused of disrespecting the taxpayers of Tobago, who helped fund the airline’s expansion into the Caribbean.
This according to Secretary for the Division of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Tashia Burris.
During a plenary sitting on Thursday, Burris accused CAL of stifling Tobago while boosting tourism and connectivity throughout the region.
CAL recently announced increased connectivity in the eastern Caribbean via new services.
These include new routes to St Kitts and additional non-stop services between Barbados and St Vincent, as well as St Lucia.
Burris said CAL’s connectivity seems to only be about profitability domestically, but not public service.
“Clearly, maybe the only time we can easily benefit from additional flights is when a certain section of the population wants to crush the island. But when the island crashes, there are no flights to be found. Madam Presiding Officer, that is what you call disrespect. It’s playing on disrespect to the taxpayers of Tobago, who helped fund the airline’s expansion into the Caribbean at the detriment to our own,” she added.
Burris claimed Tobago has been neglected, with no link showing connectivity between Barbados and Tobago, and no highlight of the connectivity between Trinidad and Tobago.
Despite the introduction of numerous new Caribbean Airlines flights, Tobago has been overlooked, Burris said.
She said there is a lack of connectivity between Barbados and Tobago, as well as a disregard for the connectivity between T&T.
She said, “They have built Barbados into a harbour not just for travel, but for influxes of people coming for business and other economic activity and they have boosted Barbados’ tourism. Where are the Tobago-centric voices of influence in such decisions?” Burris asked.
“I have not seen any additional flights launched to move traffic from our Caribbean neighbours or Caricom partners directly to Tobago, even when this administration is on record as saying that we have been willing to pay for airlift.
“Let us truly call a spade a spade. CAL has been aided and abetted by a central government that continues to turn a blind eye, whether available purposefully or otherwise. They neglect their duty to service the needs of the citizens of Tobago.
She claimed, “It appears that they (CAL) are accountable to no one and to no entity. And as a result, we are still in a serious dilemma when it comes to the functioning and operations of the airbridge between Trinidad and Tobago.”
Burris, who brought a motion to explore the idea of establishing a Tobago public transportation company, said it will be policy-driven, legally sound, and owned and operated by the people of Tobago.
Burris also criticised Tobago west MP Shamfa Cudjoe for going on record to justify CAL’s regional expansion as necessary to buffer the unprofitable domestic route.