Interview: Michael DiLollo

What can be done to increase the number of affordable short-haul flights across the region?

MICHAEL DILOLLO: This is an issue that has plagued intra-Caribbean travel for some time. The solution does not reside with one entity; it requires cooperation between several stakeholders. Currently, the short-haul flight capacity provided does not correspond to the needs of the market. In spite of this capacity gap, there are aspects of real demand that many organisations are unable to serve, for a variety of reasons.

The total cost of intra-Caribbean travel is high, due to direct and indirect taxation. At the same time, the routes are thin and the flight networks are not efficient. This requires airlines to make multiple stops in order to fill their aircraft. Additionally, immigration policies are not aligned, which degrades the customer experience and increases costs. Finally, appropriate airport infrastructure is needed in many cases.

The solution lies squarely on the shoulders of the key stakeholders. The improvements that airlines can take are not complicated, but the surrounding factors are. Simply put, there is only so much an airline can do to address this problem. With the correct competencies, processes, information infrastructure and real cooperation from stakeholders, supply can better align with demand, paving the way for better air services and sustainability. Caribbean Airlines is well positioned with its fleet mix and its continuous focus on optimising the network with a dual hub strategy both in the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as in Jamaica.

What are the anticipated effects of the Piarco International Airport (PIA) expansion project?

DILOLLO: The expansion of PIA is an exciting and crucial project for the region. As the airport’s largest tenant, we are in consultation with the government and are actively contributing to its design so that it functions efficiently as an international passenger and cargo hub. Infrastructure is a key component to continue building the aviation industry. As a key enabler to growth, it is likely that, combined with our strategic plan, this expansion project will increase growth by 3-5% above current average annualised rates.

To what extent does T&T’s air cargo handling capacity sufficiently match existing demand?

DILOLLO: As a twin island nation, a wide range of goods are transported by air, including perishables; mining and oil drilling equipment; courier shipments from on-line purchases; and personal effects, mainly from family abroad. Most perishables move by air, as this is the quickest mode of transportation and allows the products to get to market with the minimal amount of spoilage. This is also one of the fastest-growing business segments. A proper supply chain network for perishable goods, with support on the ground, will allow us to access hard-to-reach areas, thus increasing the volume of air cargo. The courier market is another fastgrowing segment for air freight. A significant number of consolidators are setting up shop to capture the increasing business opportunities due to the growing popularity of online shopping. Overall, cargo is a key revenue generator for Caribbean Airlines’ business. We are ramping up our cargo services and capacity in order to capture more market share. Improvements and changes to our network, processes, customer services and relationships are being implemented in order to double our business in the coming year.

How will the opening up of Cuba’s economy influence air traffic throughout the region?

DILOLLO: Internal discussions have begun and the opportunity for airlines to respond to market opportunities is clearly within reach. The Cuban economy will undergo significant change as economic and legislative barriers are lifted. We need to focus on establishing a dialogue and a lasting relationship with Cuba. In this respect, we anticipate being able to provide the necessary services and products designed for the inbound and outbound opportunities and customers.