Garvin Medera

cal ceo: Garvin Medera

Three years after majority State-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) disclosed it was replacing its fleet, the airline said announced the arrival of the first of nine 737 Max 8 aircraft it ordered from Chicago-based airline manufacturer, Boeing.

CAL had originally ordered 12.

In a news release issued last night, CAL said the aircraft landed at 11.18 p.m. on Wednesday and will be prepared for induction in the coming weeks.

“Stay tuned for take off in January,” the three-line release ended.

In May, the Sunday Express reported that Boeing has branded one of its Max 8 aircraft with CAL’s logo with the image being captured and circulated on social media.

At the time, CAL’s contract for 12 Max 8 aircraft from Boeing was still in effect.

CAL had told the Sunday Express: “Caribbean Airlines notes the circulation of an image of a branded MAX-8 aircraft registered as 9Y-CAL, on various social media platforms. The airline advises that discussions with lessors are on-going, as Caribbean Airlines continues to refine its strategic options with respect to its fleet.”

The Sunday Express had reported that CAL opted to not exit its contract to take 12 Max 8 aircraft when the opportunity was presented.

When the option to exit was presented the airline would not have faced any penalties for exercising the option but the beleaguered carrier opted to maintain it.

The Express understands that CAL was waiting on the necessary approval from the regulators as the lease doesn’t allow “the lessor to deliver an aircraft which is not certified by the regulator.”

Cleared to fly

In December 2020, the Max 8 was cleared for flying after 20 months of being grounded by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).

The aircraft is already being used in the United States and in Canada.

As it stands, CAL plans to reduce its jet fleet from 12 to nine.

All leases for the nine existing aircraft have been extended for at least another year until the company can take receipt of the Max 8 aircraft.

CAL’s current fleet comprises 12 Boeing 737-800.

In November 2018, CAL announced that it had leased 12 of Boeing’s Max 8 to replace its old fleet and had made a downpayment of US$7 million for the new planes.

CAL was supposed to take receipt of the first Boeing aircraft in December 2019.

But Boeing’s Max 8 aircraft has been grounded since the crash of two aircraft —the Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018 in Indonesia and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March 2019 in Ethiopia which killed 346 people.

Imbert, in his capacity as line minister for CAL, as well as Corporation Sole, at a post-Cabinet news conference in 2019, had said he gave the State airline a directive to review the contract and “get international assistance from aviation experts”, particularly lawyers specialising in aviation law to look at the terms and conditions of the contract.

“One of the obvious conditions must be that the aircraft must be certified as fit for purpose. In the current situation, with the (US regulator) Federal Aviation Authority grounding the aircraft, clearly these aircraft would not be fit for purpose today. We do not know what it will be like in December,” he had said.

While T&T’s borders remain closed for commercial travel, CAL has been operating in the Caribbean.

The country’s border closure because of Covid-19 has impacted on CAL’s profitability with the airline posting a more than US$109 million operating loss.

CAL announced its unaudited financial results for the year to the end of December 2020, which showed an operating loss of $738 million (US$109.2 million) on revenue of $802 million (US$118.6 million).

“The first two months of 2020 continued our upward trajectory of the previous three years and the next phase of our strategic plan was commencing strongly. However, Covid-19 has taken a sledgehammer to international travel and tourism for the past ten months and our financial results for last year fully reflect this new reality,” said chief executive officer Garvin Medera.

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