Caribbean Airlines (BW, Port of Spain) was offered a penalty-free way out of its contract for the dry-lease of twelve B737-8s during negotiations but decided to commit to the type, even as it remains unqualified to fly in Trinidad and Tobago, the Sunday edition of the Daily Express has reported.

Although the official decision will be communicated by the government, sources at the carrier's board said that any alternative would have incurred too long delays in the fleet renewal process.

After the global grounding of the B737 MAX in March 2019, the Trinidadian authorities ordered the state-owned carrier to review its lease contracts for the Boeing narrowbodies. While the analysis and discussions with lessors yielded multiple alternatives, including the possible cancellation of the leases, in the end, Caribbean Airlines decided not to terminate its deal.

The airline has commitments for twelve B737 MAX 8s from undisclosed lessors. It was initially due to take the first aircraft in December 2019.

The Trinidadian authorities have yet to issue regulatory clearance for the type, setting the delivery process in motion. The timeline remains unclear.

"At this time, Caribbean Airlines continues to explore its options. Due to the sensitive nature of the negotiations, I am unable to provide further details for now," spokesperson Dionne Ligoure told ch-aviation.

The aircraft are eventually due to replace Caribbean Airlines' B737-800s. The carrier operated twelve of these aircraft when the pandemic hit. In response to weakened demand, it decided to reduce its narrowbody fleet to nine aircraft temporarily. Two units, 9Y-JMD (msn 30720), on lease from Macquarie AirFinance, and 9Y-SXM (msn 37935), on lease from ALAFCO, have already been phased out. A third B737-800 will be retired shortly.

On top of the ten remaining B737-800s, Caribbean Airlines also operates seven ATR72-600s, the ch-aviation fleets advanced module shows.