Caribbean Airlines (BW, Port of Spain) is set to grow its fleet with five leased E175s, its first regional jets, according to Finance Minister Colm Imbert. Delivering the 2024 budget to the parliament, Imbert said the flag carrier would also lease three additional B737-8s and four ATR - Avions de Transport Régional turboprops, as well as two ATR and two B737-800 dedicated freighters.

"The airline thus intends to expand its fleet to meet this growing demand, bringing the fleet size to a pre-pandemic level. CAL also plans to lease five Embraer E175 regional jets to service the intra-regional demand and to establish bases and hubs across the region to promote efficiency and cost-reducing measures," Imbert said.

The airline is growing on the back of the recovering leisure demand to the Caribbean, but also the growing demand for local travel. Imbert said that the ongoing oil-and-gas boom in Guyana, a nearby country in South America, was driving corporate demand for travel. Caribbean Airlines' main base is at Port of Spain but it has a secondary base at Kingston Norman Manley. It operates a substantial number of fifth-freedom routes across the Caribbean, the ch-aviation schedules module shows.

The ch-aviation fleets module shows that the carrier currently operates ten ATR72-600s and nine B737-8s. While it does not have any in-house freighters, it wet-leases a B767-300ER(BDSF) from Northern Air Cargo.

The airline did not respond to ch-aviation's request for more information about its fleet growth plans.

Imbert confirmed that Caribbean Airlines aimed to take over the market niche occupied by LIAT (Antigua and Barbuda), which is currently in restructuring and has scaled down its operations. The Antigua and Barbuda-based carrier is due to restart as LIAT 2020 (Antigua), a newco joint venture with Nigeria's Air Peace by the end of 2023. The disclosed plans of the Trinidadian government prompted a reaction from Antigua, where the government said it would "fight back" the regional expansion of its rivals.

"We have been working with Air Peace with the expectation that it will bring capital, expertise, and, of course, a great deal of interest in ensuring that our LIAT survives and we believe that it is a better notion, a better approach than the plans announced by CAL through a parliamentarian in Trinidad and Tobago," Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister Lionel Hurst told the media.

LIAT 2020 is due to launch with six aircraft, including three ATR42-600s acquired by the Antiguan government from LIAT. While the current carrier is a joint project of the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados, only the two first countries have so far committed to funding LIAT 2020.

Besides the regional competition, CAL is also battling a domestic problem. It reportedly faces large-scale pilot resignations after filing a lawsuit to decertify the T&T Airline Pilots Association (TTALPA) union. The cockpit crew complain about low salaries and the risk of losing their right to strike if decertified.