Controversy emerges over Caribbean’s ATR order

Washington DC
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Political tension has erupted in Caribbean Airlines' home country Trinidad and Tobago over an order the carrier placed with ATR in September of this year for nine ATR 72-600 turboprops.

The aircraft, scheduled for delivery beginning in late 2011, are targeted to replace the five Bombardier Dash 8 turboprops operated by Caribbean, and to bolster frequencies from the carrier's base in Trinidad and Tobago to surrounding destinations.

But since that time Caribbean chief executive Ian Brunton abruptly left the carrier and Bombardier has reportedly sent a letter to Trinidad and Tobago's Attorney General Anand Ramlogan protesting how the competition for the new order was handled.

The Trinidad and Tobago Newsday has published a letter from Bombardier Americas sales director Ross Gray to Ramlogan contending no request for proposal was issued and that preferential treatment was given to ATR by not running concurrent negotiations with both Bombardier and ATR.

Bombardier states its correspondence "was confidential, and wasn't meant to be distributed. We're looking into how this happened". Additionally, the airframer says: "Any correspondence of this nature is written in good faith. There are times where we feel compelled to express concerns over a selection process that appears to fall short of providing a level playing field."

Neither ATR or Caribbean have responded to a request for comment. Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday is quoting Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner as defending his endorsement of the ATR deal. Caribbean is majority owned by the government of Trinidad and Tobago.

Newsday reports that since the ATR ordered was placed, a new board of directors has been installed at Caribbean Airlines led by businessman George Nicholas. The new board has asked for permission from the government to review the ATR agreement with an aviation expert, the newspaper states.