air and cruise travel miscellaneous

Super Caribbean Airlines

As the airline industry continues to be the top news headlines almost every day, it is hard not to comment and analyze this new reality which the Caribbean is confronted with. As many Caribbean economies are tourist-dependent economies, the capacity cuts announced by major US airlines have a big impact on many islands with a vulnerable economic structure, which in majority depend on the flow of tourism for its survival.

On the one side airlines are somewhat to blame for indeed having a faulty business model as my friend Jim at Caribbean Islands Realty states. Many analysts agree with above statement. However, I must add that current levels of oil prices, which peaked so rapidly, caught many industry experts by surprise. Airlines are finding themselves with their backs against the wall. Another point of criticism is the fact that some major airlines still use old aircrafts which are very inefficient on jet fuel and expensive to maintain as well. An operational nightmare and not cost effective at all.

Major Caribbean airlines: Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines

In the same breath as above criticism I would like to add some mea culpa as well. In terms of having a faulty business model, many islands in the Caribbean indeed have a faulty ‘business model’. We depend way too much on a single source of income. The services industry is the biggest industry worldwide and there are billions to be made in this industry, however, never put all your eggs in one basket. Naturally, many tiny islands, such as Aruba, are limited in fomenting other labor UN-intensive projects. Other islands have agriculture and manufacturing but are neglecting these industries in favor of tourism. Don’t! Diversify your economies.

By far the island that seems to be receiving the biggest blow of the cancellations is the one which functions as a major hub for many airlines: San Juan, Puerto Rico. Not all bad however. All these cuts open up opportunities for other airlines. Not all airlines are cutting capacity. Spirit Airlines has announced it will add some flight from North America to some Caribbean islands in the coming months. Spirit Airlines has recently started flying from Fort Lauderdale to Aruba for example. jetBlue and AirTran have also announced similar plans to expand service to the Caribbean.

Recently the prime ministers of Trinidad and Tobago and St. Vincent and the Grenadines suggested the creation of a joint airline in the Caribbean. This airline that I dubbed ‘Super Caribbean Airlines’ is a noble idea and perhaps even desirable, but I must respectfully disagree with both prime ministers.

Not that I wouldn’t want super regional airline, but I can’t help to think about these monster airlines from North America having difficulty coping with the rise of fuel prices, what can we expect from a smaller joint airlines in the Caribbean? American carriers generate a lot of volume in terms of traffic; it seems difficult to do something similar with a local carrier in the Caribbean.

Another additional problem is the internal competition between the islands. At the end of the day all the Caribbean islands are all competitors of one another. There is also politics involved and lack of legislation would prevent inter-island connections. It seems difficult to create such an airline.

Aviation magazine Flightglobal published a few days back an interesting article covering this topic: ‘Caribbean mourns US capacity cuts’. Flightglobal quotes an expert suggesting the creation of strategic hubs in Puerto Rico, Barbados, Jamaica and Aruba from where inter-island connections would start. Interesting theory.

By Gabriel

Informing travelers about Aruba since 2007, and trying to provide value to Aruba visitors.

4 replies on “Super Caribbean Airlines”

Hello Gabriel,
WOW! Some great perspective on “faulty business models” other than just airlines. Here is a further idea to ponder. All of our economies are local and even micro! As you know, the frational real estate sales are booming. And, the re-sale of whole ownership real estate is being effected by this boom. There are trade issues that prevent some of the Caribbean islands to thrive. As I mentioned in the article you referred to, there will airlines that will thrive because of what American and Continental have decided to do with their cutbacks. Every little bit of our economies are connected in some way…and they are all micro-economies trying to all hold hands and be “good neighbhors”…which doesn’t always happen. I still think it would be interesting to get Southwest Airlines to consider filling in some of the Caribbean routes. Until next time…enjoy your day in Paradise.

Jim, I’m an optimist by nature and I believe we will figure out this issue with high oil prices. For the time being we have to be creative and find ways to cope with this new reality.

The good thing is that a lot of people are thinking about some sort of a solution. We just might find one. Thanks for stopping by again Jim.

Hey Gabriel,
One more comment…I am 100% optimistic about the future of the Caribbean economy. In spite of all the outside factors, we have seen a 15% increase in real estate sales from Aruba to the Dominican Republic. The WORLD loves the Caribbean experience and they know there is no other place on earth like it. You and I are the luckiest guys I know because of our love for this amazing Caribbean community. No matter what American or Continental decides to do, people will still find a way to get here…I promise. I look forward to our next time together. Enjoy your evening in Paradise! Jim

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