CAL looks to Max 8 efficiency

“Ear­li­er this year, car­go ca­pac­i­ty was in­creased to Kingston, Ja­maica where all-car­go flights op­er­ate each Sun­day, Tues­day and Thurs­day us­ing a 767 air­craft. An ad­di­tion­al all-car­go flight out of Trinidad every Mon­day was al­so launched,” she said

Soon Caribbean Air­lines pas­sen­gers will be able to fly on the first of the air­line’s brand new Max 8 air­craft, but the re­al ben­e­fi­cia­ry of the move could be CAL’s bot­tom line with sig­nif­i­cant cost sav­ings from low­er fu­el con­sump­tion, less main­te­nance costs and im­por­tant­ly, less car­bon emis­sion.

Two weeks ago, the na­tion­al air­line took pos­ses­sion of its spank­ing new Boe­ing 737 Max 8 air­craft.

It is the first of sev­er­al Boe­ing 737 Max 8 leased by the air­line and it touched down at the Pi­ar­co In­ter­na­tion­al air­port, bear­ing reg­is­tra­tion 9Y-CAL.

The de­ci­sion to con­tin­ue the planned ac­qui­si­tion of the planes were ques­tioned in 2019, af­ter a re­cur­ring fail­ure was found in the Ma­noeu­vring Char­ac­ter­is­tics Aug­men­ta­tion Sys­tem (MCAS) which caused two fa­tal ac­ci­dents, Li­on Air Flight 610 in Oc­to­ber 2018 and Ethiopi­an Air­lines Flight 302 in 2019.

The two crash­es lead to a to­tal of 346 peo­ple deaths and the ground­ing of the air­craft.

How­ev­er af­ter hun­dreds of tests, the air­craft was re­cer­ti­fied for use in mid-2020.

Cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ag­er for Caribbean Air­lines, Dionne Ligoure said there were nu­mer­ous ben­e­fits for the air­line’s op­er­a­tions which would be re­alised by the tran­si­tion to the Max 8 air­craft.

In an email to the Busi­ness Guardian she said there would be an­nu­al op­er­at­ing cost re­duc­tion, dri­ven by sav­ings on fu­el and main­te­nance through the use of the air­craft.

The air­line’s use of the Max 8 would al­so lead 16 per cent re­duc­tion in car­bon emis­sions and fu­el con­sump­tion.

Ligoure al­so point­ed out, “40 per cent low­er noise lev­el com­pared to the 737-NGAs at No­vem­ber 23, 2021 the glob­al (based on air­lines op­er­at­ing all over the world) 737-8 fleet sur­passed 600,000 to­tal flight hours, av­er­ag­ing more than 1,300 flights a day.”

She said, “The air­craft is be­ing pre­pared for in­duc­tion and en­try in­to ser­vice in 2022. These air­craft are leased specif­i­cal­ly, op­er­at­ing leas­es and the to­tal cost of own­er­ship is less.”

She con­firmed that pi­lots would al­so re­ceive spe­cialised train­ing for the new planes. CAL’s cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ag­er said, “Caribbean Air­lines has worked with the reg­u­la­tors and Boe­ing, as well as our pi­lots, safe­ty and main­te­nance teams to en­sure the safe in­duc­tion of the air­craft. All Boe­ing 737 pi­lots will com­plete the ap­proved train­ing, in­clud­ing com­put­er-based train­ing, class­room brief­in­gs and rig­or­ous 737-8 sim­u­la­tor train­ing be­fore the air­craft is placed in­to ser­vice.”

Train­ing would al­so be pro­vid­ed for main­te­nance staff as well, she said.

“Our main­te­nance en­gi­neers and tech­ni­cians were trained by Boe­ing and cer­ti­fied by the in­de­pen­dent reg­u­la­tors as ap­proved to ser­vice the air­craft. Our cab­in crews have al­so been ful­ly trained on the air­craft type, to en­sure that our cus­tomers con­tin­ue to en­joy our au­then­tic Caribbean ser­vice lev­els,” she said.

Over­all, she ex­plained it was sim­ple and more cost ef­fi­cient to in­tro­duce the Max 8 to Caribbean Air­lines’ fleet.

“The air­craft which are op­er­at­ing leas­es, will be less cost­ly to op­er­ate than the NG’s. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, they have more seats and greater range, which along with the sav­ings on fu­el and main­te­nance will pro­vide the op­por­tu­ni­ty for im­proved earn­ings,” she said. As for the air­lines per­for­mance, since the re­open­ing of bor­ders and the re­sump­tion of routes out of T&T, Ligoure said there had been lit­tle change in terms of the pro­jec­tions the air­line had seen and the in­ter­est in flights cur­rent­ly.

She said, “For Sep­tem­ber 2021, IA­TA re­port­ed ‘air trav­el picked up in Sep­tem­ber, af­ter a slight de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in the pre­vi­ous month, but re­mained well be­low pre-cri­sis lev­els. In­dus­try-wide rev­enue pas­sen­ger-kilo­me­tres (RPKs) fell by 53 per cent com­pared with pre-cri­sis Sep­tem­ber 2019, vs a 56 per cent con­trac­tion in Au­gust.”

She con­tin­ued, “In month-on-month terms, RPKs rose by 18 per cent—a ro­bust im­prove­ment but from a very low base.”

The In­ter­na­tion­al Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion (IA­TA) re­port con­tin­ued: No im­prove­ment in glob­al in­ter­na­tion­al trav­el: “The con­trac­tion in glob­al in­ter­na­tion­al RPKs sta­bilised in Sep­tem­ber, at -69 per cent be­low 2019 lev­els. Traf­fic de­vel­op­ments were mut­ed across all re­gions.”

T&T’s bor­ders were re­opened on Ju­ly 17, 2021 af­ter be­ing closed since March 2020.

How­ev­er, world­wide trav­el has still been on a go slow, as nu­mer­ous coun­tries have vary­ing re­stric­tions con­cern­ing en­try and quar­an­tine reg­u­la­tions, re­lat­ing to vac­ci­nat­ed or un­vac­ci­nat­ed en­try.

The re­cent emer­gence of the Omi­cron vari­ant of the coro­n­avirus, has once again prompt­ed sev­er­al coun­tries to im­pose re­stric­tions on trav­el to and from spe­cif­ic coun­tries.

The air­line has in re­cent months added ad­di­tion­al flights to routes or added new routes as it has at­tempt­ed to nav­i­gate a try­ing pe­ri­od which it ex­pects will per­sist in­to 2022, with hope that there would be im­prove­ment in 2023.

“Pas­sen­ger de­mand glob­al­ly, is sup­pressed and is ex­pect­ed to re­main so for the next two to three years. In spite of the chal­lenges, Caribbean Air­lines is com­mit­ted to its ob­jec­tive of con­nect­ing the re­gion. Since the re­open­ing of bor­ders at its south­ern base in T&T, the air­line has used a phased ap­proach to rein­tro­duce its com­mer­cial sched­ule. Along­side flights to its reg­u­lar mar­kets, some ad­di­tions to the net­work in­clude week­ly ser­vice be­tween Trinidad and Do­mini­ca and twice week­ly ser­vice be­tween Trinidad and Eu­gene F Cor­reia, George­town, Ogle, Guyana,” she said.

“Al­so, by the end of 2021, the air­line would have rein­tro­duced ser­vice be­tween Trinidad and Cu­ba, Ja­maica, Suri­name and a sea­son­al op­er­a­tion to Fort Laud­erdale.

Caribbean Air­lines Car­go, which re­mained ex­treme­ly ac­tive through­out the pan­dem­ic, now in­cludes op­er­a­tions to Do­mini­ca, Bar­ba­dos, St Vin­cent, Grena­da, New York, Toron­to and Mi­a­mi,” said Ligoure.

She stressed that with the suc­cess of Caribbean Air­lines Car­go, the air­line was en­cour­aged to in­crease ca­pac­i­ty, which it did.

“Ear­li­er this year, car­go ca­pac­i­ty was in­creased to Kingston, Ja­maica where all-car­go flights op­er­ate each Sun­day, Tues­day and Thurs­day us­ing a 767 air­craft. An ad­di­tion­al all-car­go flight out of Trinidad every Mon­day was al­so launched,” she said.

Ligoure not­ed that while those in­creas­es do in­di­cate some lev­el of in­creased ac­tiv­i­ty on that front, the air­line is still nav­i­gat­ing a dif­fi­cult pe­ri­od as are much of the avi­a­tion sec­tor. Ear­li­er this year, the air­line an­nounced it had lost TT$326.6 mil­lion for the first half of this year.

The air­line al­so an­nounced that it had no choice but to re­trench work­ers, with 450 work­ers ini­tial­ly ex­pect­ed to be sent home.

The air­line con­firmed its rev­enue fell by $2.2 bil­lion in 2020, just a year af­ter it record­ed an op­er­at­ing prof­it of $76 mil­lion in 2019.

It was the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year the air­line made a prof­it af­ter it saw a $42 mil­lion prof­it in 2018 af­ter con­sis­tent­ly op­er­at­ing at a loss since 2011.