Trinidad and Tobago | Mar 11, 2023

Trinidad and Tobago seeing contraction in airlift

/ Our Today

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Aerial view of the Piarco International Aiport in Trinidad. Photo taken March 6, 2018. (Photo: Peter Lim Choy for Facebook @PiarcoInternationalAirport)

There has been a marked contraction in airlift coming into Trinidad and Tobago to the extent that it is now more difficult to get to the twin island Caribbean republic by plane than it was pre-pandemic.

Figures from airport authorities reveal that for the month of February, leading up to this year’s Carnival, the number of flights coming to Trinidad and Tobago from all destinations decreased by 46 per cent. There were 408 flights thus far this year compared to 760 in 2020.

The shortage of flights is believed to have negatively impacted the number of visitors to what was billed ‘The Mother of All Carnivals’. Regional air carrier LIAT no longer has service in 2023 as compared to 2020 when all its flights were functional and provided much connectivity to the rest of the region.

Carnival visitors contracted

Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell has indicated that the number of visitors for Carnival fell from 37,000 in 2020 to 30,000 in 2023. American Airlines operates one turnaround flight per day compared to 2020 when it operated one turnaround and one overnight flight.

Minister of Tourism in Trinidad and Tobago, Randall Mitchell. (Photo: Ministry of Housing and Urban Development)

JetBlue has pulled its Fort Lauderdale route and now operates only one flight compared to 2020 when there were two flights per day. WestJet and Air Canada no longer fly to Trinidad compared to 2020 when they operated in the pre-COVID era. The statistics also show that Caribbean Airlines simply can’t pick up the slack with its limited number of aircraft and routes.

In a telephone interview with ET&T’s Express Business, Hayden Newton, general manager of the Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (AATT), said: “All of the major airlines have had challenges in terms of pilots and staffing. There were challenges with South West and American Airlines with their pilots. There was the zeal to come to Trinidad, but there weren’t enough flights coming in. For example, from Canada, the only carrier was Caribbean Airlines. Then there is the challenge of the labour laws in Canada with regard to flying to a particular jurisdiction. Flights coming out of Toronto (major hub) and other parts of Canada were down.”

He added: “If you look at American [Airlines], they would have had about three flights per day in 2020. The T&T-based Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) has flights from JFK, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. JFK and Miami are operating every day but Fort Lauderdale did not operate daily.

Hayden Newton, general manager of the Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago delivering remarks during a panel discussion at international Routes Americas conference on February 26, 2020. (Photo: Facebook @PiarcoInternationalAirport)

The airline operates either three times per week at Fort Lauderdale and Orlando operated twice per week. CAL has other flights that go twice weekly to the United States. American Airlines had much fewer flights into Trinidad.

JetBlue operated only the normal JFK flight. They did not have the Ft Lauderdale that they had in 2020. Before, JetBlue had two flights daily – one from JFK International Airport and one from Ft Lauderdale.

“United might have been the only one that operated in the same manner like 2020,” added Newton, admitting that the aviation industry was severely impacted and the number of pilots and airline personnel had decreased. He stated that there were fewer flights between Trinidad and Tobago.


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