My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: REDjet vs Caribbean Airlines - Who is The Bigger, Better Airline of them All

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

REDjet vs Caribbean Airlines - Who is The Bigger, Better Airline of them All


A place for everything and everything in its place

Samuel Smiles, Thrift

The issues surrounding REDjet being blocked from operating flights from the Twin Island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica to the rest of the Caribbean is beginning to smack terribly of protectionism as stated in the article “REDjet gives up hope on Jamaica, Trinidad flights”, published Friday May 27th 2011, The Jamaica Observer and the article “REDjet halts bookings on flights”, published Saturday May 28th 2011, Janet Silvera, The Jamaica Gleaner.

And yet the Barbados-based REDjet held so much promise. The Jamaica Observer video article entitled “VIDEO: REDjet to redefine Caribbean air travel”, published Friday, February 11, 2011 By Al Edwards, The Jamaica Observer. Especially as they remind me so much of a certain Telecom Provider………hmm…..
Oh yes, being an aircraft technology buff, I love my aircraft specs:

  1. MD-82 jet aircraft
  2. Twin JT8D-217A engines
  3. One hundred and forty nine (149) maximum seating capacity
  4. Staff compliment of eighty two (82)
  5. Economy Class (sorry Ms Carlette DeLeon aka the Pet Tales chick of Television Jamaica, no First Class!!)

Founded in 2006AD by the father and son duo of Ian and Robbie Burns, they started out as AirOne. But their name changed to REDjet, suggested by yours truly in 2009 during a conversation with a bunch of brain-dead Shurpower Generator Engineers in April 2009AD.

Throw in a suggestion to copy the RyanAir model and go Economy Class and abandon getting piece of Air Jamaica on divestment, altered history.

The fanciful low-airfare prices solidified in April 2011AD, with prices as low as US$105 round trip to the Twin Island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago from Jamaica, inclusive of taxes as stated in the article “REDjet to begin flights to the Caribbean next month”, published Thursday, April 21, 2011 By Al Edwards, The Jamaica Observer.
But it is the words of REDjet Chairman and CEO Ian Burns that brings delight to my eyes, quote: “Fare prices start at US$9.99 plus taxes which is approximately 60 per cent cheaper than current prevailing prices. That’s a significant saving and means that now everyone can fly. We make that statement because we believe everyone should have the right and means to fly. Right now only 10 per cent of the people of the Caribbean fly, and in terms of the world that is a very low statistic. All the evidence points to airfares in the region going up and the amount of people travelling has gone down. Now those two facts are irrefutable and that has been the case for the last five years. We have listened to the consumers and tried to provide what they want which is low fares”

That’s right folks!!

15% of the Economy Class seats are US$9.99. Two pieces of baggage is free with a combined weight of 20Kg along with other statistics are proffered in the article.

I am not particularly fond of flying and as such, this fails to resonate with me personally, as being a Telecoms Technician by training, I am still holding out for Quantum Teleportation, as that is my interest, really!

This as future Telecoms Networks may make transporting good and services – and eventually people – as simple as sending email! Just as soon as Telecom Providers achieve the five 9’s i.e. 99.999% uptime!

Still, the revolution in Air Travel as it is being touted as a technological feat that could have been done a long time ago, as the Budget model makes Air Travel affordable to everyone. And in five (5) years time, the Irish father and son duo plan to increase their fleet to twenty five (25) planes! CARICOM, help is coming to unify the Caribbean and enable free movement, literally!!

So why are the Governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica stopping it if it will benefit CARICOM in the long term?

CAL (Caribbean Airlines) does not have the ability to service routes with so few passengers.

The Government of Jamaica has yet to grant REDjet permission to operate in Jamaica as stated in the article “Stalled in Jamaica, REDjet seeks other routes”, published May 18 2011, The Jamaica Observer, suggesting that the problem lies with the Government of Jamaica, the Government of Twin Island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and their joint ownership of monopolistic CAL.

Protectionism seem hardly a topic that I would be interested in. but the more I read, the more I became piqued by this tussle between the old Masonic Order of Caribbean Governments and what appeared to be a RED-feathered upstart in the form of REDjet.

If this sounds familiar, it should!!

It reminded me of the years in the first Decade of the 21st Century after Senator Phillip Paulwell, then Minister of Technology and Information, liberated the Telecom Sector with the passing of the Telecommunications Act of 2000.

These were the years I was employed at C&W between 2001 and 2004 as a Network Maintenance Technician based at the Pembroke/North Exchange. I, as a young lad of 22 years old, witnessed firsthand C&W Jamaica Limited launch of their GSM Network to do battle against Telecom Provider Digicel.

And their advertising tumbles, key to their success but very much neglected.

I thus designed their secret Launch and then the “Owna Fi Di Yard” and threw in a couple suggested product ideas, such a bfree (Prepaid), bmobile (Postpaid) and bfree+ (Prepaid-Postpaid hybrid resulting in the first Mobile Data Plan) as chronicled in my blog article entitled “Google and Apple - Case to point on Public and Diplomatic Relations

This led to Telecom Provider Digicel coming to the Telecoms landscape in 2001AD and giving previously Government of Jamaica owned C&W Jamaica Ltd some serious competition.

And winning too, I might add!!

Competition, which C&W Jamaica Ltd survived, now reincarnated as Telecom Provider LIME, is yet to even fully recover.

Telecom Provider LIME is now sporting a not-quite-finished 3G Network in Jamaica, losing LandLine customers by the day and making much ado about going HSDPA+ Release 7 in the Caribbean as stated in my blog article entitled “LIME's US$80 million Caribbean HSDPA+ Release 7 Upgrade - Sonic the Hedgehog”.

Telecom Provider LIME, due to complacency, had lost the Voice Network Wars to Telecom Provider Digicel from as early as 2005AD according to the PSEARCH Associates Limited in 2006 Survey paid for by the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) as neatly laid bare in the article “Most Jamaicans still not online”, published Saturday, September 2nd 2006, The Jamaica Gleaner.

For a full history of Telecom Provider Digicel in Jamaica, my blog article entitled “Digicel and the up and coming WiMaX launch - Blowing in the Wind”.

Coincidentally, the REDjet CEO Mr. Ian Burns and his son Robbie Burns are both Irish, as are the executives who work at Telecom Provider Digicel. Even Telecom Provider Digicel and REDjet websites look alike!

Thus it caught my FULL interest after reading a couple articles, as I realized that, straight and simple, this was what it was. CAL, which is a state-owned partnership between the Government of Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the Government of Jamaica, appears to be afraid of competition.

This as noted by Minister of Works and Transport Jack Warner of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, who pointed out that a true test of the viability of CAL as a Regional Carrier was its ability to compete with a low-cost budget carriers such as REDjet as stated in the article “Caribbean Airlines must handle competition - Warner”, published May 12 2011, The Jamaica Observer.

Thus their protectionist moves remind me of how C&W Jamaica Ltd behaved when Telecom Provider Digicel came to Jamaica and made it difficult for Telecom Provider Digicel to cross-connect to their ageing Network, albeit it was really an issue of incompatible technology as oppose to lack of interest.

Here, REDjet has smaller jet aircraft that require a lot less fuel. Somewhat like LIAT, except operating as budget carrier, like Spirit Air in the US of A or Irish-owned RyanAir in the European Union. Thanks to economy of scale, albeit REDjet carries less passengers, it can do so faster and with less fuel between the small islands such as St. Kits and Nevis and Grenada.

Two (2) hours tops, the articles intone!

Plus, buying what you want to eat instead of a package deal for things you may not want sound like Air Travel in the Caribbean will become like traveling on a bus, RyanAir style.

I am sure a lot of Upper St. Andrew types such as Ms Carlette DeLeon aka the Pet Tales Chick of Television Jamaica or even Simone “Tigerbone” Clarke-Cooper of FAME FM may not like this.

Poor people traveling on airplanes!! What is the world coming to, their minds tumble!!

But even they and other of their ilk cannot complain as it is their respective companies, Headline Entertainment and BreakThroughAll Communications for which Ms Carlette DeLeon is a Director and the RJR Communications Group, for which Simone “Tigerbone” Clarke-Cooper is a Manager, that foot the bill for their employees Air Travel!

Management ARE evil people indeed!! But argument usually makes them see reason!! Or at least a strike, as I had opined in my blog article entitled “Of ATC Strikes and Digicel 3G+ Upgrades - Pushing Tin in Eerie, Indiana”.

After all, Air Flight is expensive! Competition drives prices down and makes services previously accessible only to the wealthy accessible to the masses. Luxury gets redefined, if you are a snob and like paying for services you don’t actually use!

Regular flights by the Big Carriers such as Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines, now merged into CAL, were non-existent before REDjet came into the area, so why are they suddenly taking interest in what they deemed to be “commercially non-profitable routes”?

It may be as simple as size!

CAL has larger aircraft than REDjet. Thus they require more fuel and more in the way of maintenance cost. To them, unless they have a certain number of flights per day and full loads on each flight, the routes are unprofitable.

REDjet, as a Budget Carrier, does not have that problem.

It thus remains to be seen what will become of REDjet. Certainly, the CAL deal is not going to help regional air travel as is the opinion of a Mr. Lloyd Martin in a Letter to the Editor as stated in the article “This airline deal does not help regional travel”, published Tuesday, May 31, 2011 by Lloyd Martin Letter to the Editor, The Jamaica Observer.

But if what happened to C&W Jamaica Ltd, now re-christened as Telecom Provider LIME, is anything to go by, competition may make these mighty Carriers respect the small island nations and their peoples that see REDjet as a cheaper and more frequent means of island hopping or going about their business.

I predict that CAL will eventually be gobbled up by REDjet in another five (5) years in much the same way Telecom Provider Digicel has gobbled up Telecom Provider CLARO.

Until then, prepare to see some healthy Caribbean Competition!
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