Strings attached to low fares
The battle to offer the lowest airfares in the Caribbean is heating up.
Triggered by the newest airline in the region, REDjet, offering deals as low as US$9.99, LIAT and Caribbean Airlines are trying to match some of the fares.
REDjet’s chief executive Officer Ian Burns declared: “The war on high fares has truly begun” at the announcement of the May 8 start of the airline servicing three countries – Trinidad, Guyana and Jamaica.
In addition to the US$9.99 fare which was splashed across ads in the media as well as on the airline’s Facebook page, there were the US$19.99 deals to the three destinations.
In the April 1 WEEKEND NATION, LIAT introduced its special to two destinations for US$22. Then, Caribbean Airlines offered its Fly Caribbean promotion to Trinidad for BDS$188 and Jamaica for BDS$288.
But there is more than meets the eye, and it’s all in the fine print.
For example, the cost of a trip to Trinidad on these airlines far exceeds the amount quoted in the ads, given the special conditions that apply, as well as the additional taxes and extra costs.
On REDjet, while the US$9.99 fare was quoted for a one-way trip, there are other costs:
There is a US$5 charge for all website bookings, per passenger, per flight.
For a trip leaving Barbados for Trinidad, there are also other taxes:
the airport security charge is US$2.50;
passenger service charge is US$27.50;
Barbados sales tax is US$1.75
Leaving Trinidad and heading back to Barbados, fares are also subjected to:
airport terminal charge of US$1.50
concourse fee US$7.50
passenger user charge US$15.70
Barbados sales tax US$1.75.
Passengers flying REDjet also have to pay for their luggage, as only carry-on handbags and a laptop are free.
A small bag, weighing up to 15 kilogrammes (kg) is US$10, a medium bag of up to 22.5 kg is US$17.50 and a large bag of up to 30 kg will incur US$25.
So a flight booked for Trinidad leaving Barbados on May 22 and returning on May 24, 2011, would cost US$119.18 (BDS$238.36). That is with priority boarding at a cost of US$10.
The recent LIAT special, which ended Thursday, would see a passenger shelling out US$105.55 for a return trip to Trinidad. The airfare would be US$44, with taxes amounting to US$61.55. This fare includes free baggage of 50 pounds per person. LIAT does not charge for online bookings.
Under LIAT’s regular fare, however, a flight for the same dates (May 22 to May 24) to Trinidad would be US$250.50 (BDS$501), including taxes that amount to an average of US$44 one way.
Caribbean Airlines’ fare also has special conditions. The airline notes that the special rates apply to Economy cabin. The airline accepts one checked bag at 50 pounds, one carry-on at 22 pounds, plus a laptop bag.
Travelling to Trinidad on this airline on the same dates would cost US$181.60 (BDS$363.20).
Airline officials and travel agents said there has been an overwhelming response to the specials.
In the case of REDjet, Stephanie Taylor, of Virgo Communications, responsible for the airline’s public relations, said: “The response has been more than we ever dreamed.”
Ann Sealy, president of the Barbados Travel Agents Association, said: “People always want specials and they want it at the cheapest possible price.”
She too noted that large numbers of people were inquiring about the special Caribbean deals offered by all the airlines.