Petition challenges airfare differences between London and Caribbean

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What started as a solo mission, by a concerned and slightly irate traveler, Theodore White, is mushrooming into a region-wide initiative aimed at forcing two major carriers to be “transparent” with their fares.
White told OBSERVER media he decided to start an online petition against British Airways and Virgin Atlantic after executives from the two airlines brushed off his queries about fare discrepancies.
He wants to know why it costs much more to fly from the Caribbean to the United Kingdom than it does to travel from the UK to the region.
“I am optimistic that the more we make an issue of it, the more officials at BA and Virgin will have to give account,” he told this newspaper via telephone from St Lucia.
After speaking with White, this newspaper contacted BA’s Country Manager for Antigua and Barbuda, Patrice Skerritt. She directed us to Diane Corrie, who is the carrier’s regional Commercial Manager. Corrie said via email that she is on leave and had forwarded our questions to the Americas Press Office which is located in New York City.
Efforts to reach the local executives for Virgin Atlantic were unsuccessful.
White had told OBSERVER media he became aware of the “discriminatory” airfares only when he relocated from Britain and began making frequent trips to his former country of residence.
He spoke of a difference of about EC $1,359 in some cases. OBSERVER media visited the websites of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic to book a return flight from Britain and also from Antigua.
Our travel dates: June 30 to July 30. The Class: Economy.
Flying out of London Gatwick (LGW) on BA, the fare was EC $2086, with taxes, fees and carrier charges making up the majority of the cost at EC $1,053.
Leaving from Antigua, the price was EC $3657 for a whopping difference of EC $1571.
But it was even worse on Virgin Atlantic.
Travelers who begin the return trip from Antigua’s V C Bird International Airport have to shell out EC $4,389. Carrier imposed surcharges totaled EC $745 while taxes, fees and charges were EC $792.
But from LGW the fare was EC $2153. The carrier imposed surcharges amount to EC $554 and Taxes, fees as well as charges EC $499.  This puts the difference in fares, depending on if the trip begins in the Caribbean or Britain, at EC $2,236.
White said every Caribbean national including the heads of government should be clamouring for an explanation.
“If BA and Virgin say the reason there is such a disparity is because the tax that we pay exiting the UK is significantly less than what we pay from Caribbean jurisdictions, then that is a different discussion we would have to have,” the former Linguistics lecturer reasoned.
Unlike American Airlines which itemizes each tax and to which country it is going, the two British carriers lump the levies together.
Up to press time, the online petition had 1,179 signatures.
White said he wrote to the heads of government of Guyana, Barbados, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Grenada and Jamaica on Wednesday, exactly one week after he started the petition.
The Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart was the only one to respond, according to the 61-year-old activist.
“I want as many people as possible to sign the petition and to begin to speak to political leaders in the Caribbean, that this is an issue that they need to pick up,” White added.
White’s initiative to influence the regional heads of government to query the pricing regime of the British carriers is significant because a few years ago they too had engaged in a similar fight but against the British government.
Caribbean countries which are heavily dependent on tourist arrivals from the UK, successfully lobbied England to reduce the controversial Air Passenger Duty (APD) which had skyrocketed the cost of airline tickets for British travelers to the Caribbean. It was thought that the high fares would devastate Caribbean tourism. And while Caribbean nationals often complain in private about high fares to travel to England, there has not been much ado, publicly.

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