Saturday, 4 June 2011

Discount carrier struggles to fly in Caribbean


The Caribbean's first discount airline is having a rough time getting off the ground and the company's Irish chief executive blames political fear of competition for the region's government-affiliated carriers.

Ian Burns dreams of creating a Caribbean version of Europe's cut-rate Ryanair, advertising flights for as little as $10 that would make it dramatically easier for people across the islands to fly and do business, boosting the region's economy. People in the Caribbean have long complained that costly, inefficient air service has choked back investment and jobs.

But regulators in two key countries have not yet given Burns' REDjet permission to operate. And so far he's unable to offer any flights to the United States, the most important source of travellers and trade for the Caribbean.

"There is obviously some sort of political interference going on. Our point is, let the consumer decide by giving them a choice. We're not going to cost the taxpayers a bit of money if we fail, so why can't the market decide?" Burns told The Associated Press this week.

Burns, a former partner of a British accounting firm and a past president of Dublin's Wanderers rugby club, has no previous experience running an airline but he seems to have plenty of business connections. He says he is "close friends" with Irish telecommunications tycoon Denis O'Brien and has received counsel from top brass at Ryanair, the Dublin-based airline that thrived during Europe's recession by offering rock-bottom rates.

His short-haul, low-cost airline recently launched inaugural flights from its Barbados base to Guyana, using two 149-seat MD-82 passenger jets.

The Associated Press: Discount carrier struggles to fly in Caribbean

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