Caribbean still interested in an alliance with Liat

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Management at Caribbean Airlines remains interested in deepening its ties with Antiguan carrier Liat despite being entrenched in integrating Air Jamaica after its takeover of Jamaica's flag carrier earlier this year.

In early 2010 Caribbean and Liat held meetings about forging deeper ties, but Caribbean chief executive Ian Brunton tells ATI that "our efforts to bring Air Jamaica into the fold has meant we have had little time to devote to the Liat initiative".

But he explains that Caribbean is now trying to advance its discussions with Liat, and another meeting is planned for December.

"If we are to satisfy our goal of providing safe, affordable and quality air services within the Caribbean region, a close alliance of some sort with Liat is a must," says Brunton.

He declines to commit on the viability of proposed start-up Airone, who is promoting a low cost business model for the Caribbean region. Previously, Airone Ventures, organized under the laws of Barbados, said it aimed to launch intra-Caribbean and Barbados-US flights in February 2011.

Brunton believes the Caribbean Airlines brand is strong enough to withstand new competition and allows the carrier to increase its market share. "Airone will not be a threat to us," he says.

Caribbean recently started operating Air Jamaica's Kingston-Toronto flights with one of its 737-800s featuring some elements of the Air Jamaica brand on the aircraft's livery. On 10 November Caribbean assumed Air Jamaica's Grenada-New York JFK route with the flight originating at its base in Trinidad.

"There is a plan for this to continue across all Air Jamaica routes as we phase out the Air Jamaica Airbuses and harmonize not only the scheduling, but the fleet as well," Brunton explains.

At the time Caribbean reached its agreement with the Jamaican government to take over Air Jamaica, the carriers said Air Jamaica's seven Airbus A320s would be operated under contract for Caribbean.

Brunton says although Caribbean is currently profitable, the acquisition of Air Jamaica enlarges its critical mass, and should increase Caribbean's revenue base by 60%.