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Absolutely ridiculous! Look Loy, Makan slam torturous weekend for Tobago travellers

Defending Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) champions FC Santa Rosa were brought back down to earth somewhat on the weekend.

No, it wasn’t some 500-1 outsiders who shot them down but a high-flying airline that couldn’t quite manage to cater to the needs of thousands of passengers, including Keith Look Loy’s men, trying to make their way from Piarco to Tobago.

Photo: Bethel FC right back Daniel Craig (centre) tries to evade FC Santa Rosa midfielder Jesse Rampersad (left) while referee Rashby McPhie looks on during TTSL One action at the Arima Velodrome on 18 June 2017.
(Courtesy Annalicia Caruth/Wired868)

On the field of play, Santa Rosa usually prove gritty and often seem to be one step ahead of their opponents. However, the Arima-based contingent was not ready for the battle in Piarco on Sunday as a reported dispute between Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) and the Trinidad and Tobago Airlines Pilot Association (TTALPA) delayed their journey to the TTSL match against 1976 FC Phoenix by more than two hours.

Pilots, media reports earlier in the week stated, were taking strike action to express their concern at the continuing use of the French-made ATR aircraft CAL uses on the airbridge.

Spokespersons for both CAL and TTALPA have since denied that the pilots have undertaken any strike action.

KFC Munch Pack

“The Trinidad and Tobago Airlines Pilot Association (TTALPA) wishes to advise that it has been working assiduously with Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) in an effort to achieve optimum safety and efficiency in the operations in the ATR fleet of aircrafts,” a TTALPA media release stated. “Contrary to media reports, its pilots are not engaged in any form of industrial action.”

On Tuesday, CAL released a travel advisory, which stated that “Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) advises that several domestic flights between Trinidad and Tobago will be operated by [Boeing] 737 jet services.”

Photo: A Caribbean Airlines plane prepares to land.
(Copyright Lyndon Thorley/Planespotters.net)

The ATRs, which are mainly used for domestic flights, have a seating capacity of roughly 70 while the Boeing aircraft are able to hold twice that. According to one pilot, the Boeing jets are built to cover longer distances than the ATR and also more fuel-efficient.

CAL’s Corporate Communications head, Dionne Ligoure, said that the airline was sincerely sorry for the inconvenience it may have caused to passengers over the weekend and noted that the delays came about owing to “crew constraints.” Deeming the events on the weekend an anomaly, Ligoure maintained that CAL transported all its passengers over the weekend, moving over 9,000 confirmed and standby persons.

Look Loy, Santa Rosa founder and interim president of the TTSL, was not amused at the treatment meted out to his team and the scores of travellers in Piarco on the weekend.

“Torturous,” is how he described his team’s experience on Sunday.

Santa Rosa were scheduled to play 1976 FC Phoenix from 5pm at the Canaan and Bon Accord ground and Look Loy noted that his team’s original flight time of 11.30am was pushed back to 1.30pm.

Photo: WASA FC midfielder Shem Clauzel (right) advances with the ball while FC Santa Rosa midfielder Durwin Ross (left) calls for a medic during TTSL One action in St Joseph on 9 July 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“It was a really sickening experience and no other club has been affected like us,” Look Loy said. “Like the national population and the population in Tobago in particular, we are dependent on the State for travel between the islands.

“To be honest, if I were a Tobagonian, and given what has happened with inter-island travel and transportation of goods for the past several months I would have been applying for independence because it’s absolutely ridiculous.”

After playing to a goalless draw with Phoenix, Look Loy’s side had to endure further setbacks as they never left Tobago until around 1am on Monday.

“This is a statement about the way the management of that state enterprise uses the public as a whole,” Look Loy declared to Wired868. “My understanding is that the pilots have been complaining about this issue with the small aircraft for the past two years.

“This is not a mechanical problem in a bus, this is not a mechanical problem in a car, this is a problem in a plane […] Their lives are at stake too so they have quite rightly taken a decision not to fly an aircraft—five of them—that is not worthy of flight in their professional opinion.”

Photo: FC Santa Rosa coach Keith Look Loy reacts to action during his team’s 1-0 win over Marabella Family Crisis Centre in 2015/16 CNG National Super League action.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868

Ligoure maintained that CAL was uncompromising when it came to the safety of all its passengers.

The TTSL currently pays CAL a monthly fee for the inter-island travel of its teams and Look Loy noted that the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs (MoSYA), from whom the League requested a subsidy to cover air travel, is no closer to settling this issue.

“Whatever the issues are [with CAL], they need to be resolved because we can’t be paying $70,000 a month in advance for tickets and we are left at the whims and fancies of the people who schedule flights,” Look Loy said. “I wrote a letter to Minister [Darryl Smith] on 10 May […]. To date, the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs has not responded to me.”

“We would appreciate the assistance of the Ministry of Sport and/or other state support for this aspect of our operation,” read Look Loy’s 10 May letter, also copied to Prime Minister Keith Rowley read. “Without state sponsorship of inter-island travel, the League would be forced to proceed without the Tobago clubs, which would be a disaster for the League [and] the twin-island republic.”

Phoenix and Bethel United, the two Tobago teams in the TTSL top flight, both had home games on the weekend and were not affected by the goings-on at the airport. Bethel defender and former national player Makan Hislop told Wired868 that, so far in the current TTSL season, it has generally been smooth sailing for his team as far as the airbridge is concerned.

However, Hislop went on to discuss to what air and seabridge disruptions could do to the Tobago economy.

Photo: Bethel United defender and former Trinidad and Tobago Senior National Team player Makan Hislop.
(Courtesy Nicholas Bhajan/Wired868)

“It’s very problematic for Tobago because we have been proclaimed as a tourism-based industry,” he told Wired868. “Over the last ten to fifteen years, we had a lot of international tourism [but] the bulk of Tobago’s tourism now comes locally from Trinidad and when you see the seabridge goes down, that takes a chunk out of the local tourism.

“[…] When the boat is giving problems, people who may want to come for five to six days change their plans because when they come across, it’s a lot of problems to go back…”

Wired868 reached out to Aisha Sylvester, a communications spokesperson for the Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation, seeking a response on the current state of inter-island travel in the country. With the TT Express being the only passenger boat in operation on the seabridge at the moment, the Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation sees the recent acquisition of the Ocean Flower 2 and the Cabo Star as a boost to inter-island movement.

“The ferry service does not fall under the purview of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA),” a response from Sylvester stated. “However, the THA has been working alongside Central Government to address the challenges faced by the domestic seabridge. The Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation anticipates that the issues that have affected the service in recent times will soon be resolved as a result of the acquisition of a cargo and a passenger boat.

“The Division acknowledges that this has been a difficult time for all passengers who utilise the ferry service and the THA will continue to work in tandem with Central Government on this matter.”

Photo: Visitors wait for a flat bottom boat to take them to the Buccoo Reef.

The Cabo Star, which will reportedly cost the government US$22,500 per day, can accommodate roughly 120 passengers, which is expected to cater for the truckers who will be moving goods on the vessel.

With the Ocean Flower 2, a passenger boat, set to set to begin serving the seabridge by the end of this month, truckers, tourists and travelling locals, including footballers, will hope that the rough patch is now firmly behind them.

About Roneil Walcott

Roneil Walcott
Roneil Walcott is an avid sports fan and freelance reporter with a BA in Mass Communication from COSTAATT. Roneil is a former Harvard and St Mary's College cricketer who once had lofty aspirations of bringing joy to sport fans with the West Indies team. Now, his mission is to keep them on the edge of their seats with sharp commentary from off the playing field.

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  1. Good thing you can just go by Massy or ANSA and pick up a couple of planes from the showroom oui….

  2. What is a new Tobagonian?

    At any rate, I was in Tobago over the weekend and endured the flight issues as well. If 2 of the aircraft that fly the subsidized route are down and pilots go on strike refusing to fly the other aircraft as its defective, and the airline puts on two jets to cover the service, consolidating the smaller ATR flights, but they take longer to turn around, what would we do differently? Add to that, so many people want to treat the domestic route like a taxi or maxi; hail a ride when they feel like then complain when they have to wait on confirmed passengers. I saw a lot of people trying to go stand by get turned away because flights were simply full. With confirmed passengers, who will be prioritised.

  3. Lasana Liburd, it’s not that the pro league won’t allow teams from Tobago into the league, in fact they would welcome a representative from Tobago. But the first issue is that the club would have to confirm it has enough guaranteed funding for them to visit Trinidad at least 9 times a season. Then the clubs would need to vote to allow them in. With funding and sponsorship virtually disappeared, their concerns would be purely financial. Clubs would not wish to travel on the day of the game. But even if they did that, it would still cost around $10,000 to play the game. As for funding from Ministry, Keith should recognize that pro league is still awaiting money from 2016. Therefore, his funding probably won’t arrive in 2017. And it shouldn’t be paid to super league before outstanding promises to pro league and various sporting bodies are satisfied. The ministry shouldn’t be making funding promises while previous commitments are not being serviced.

  4. As a new Tobagonian one wonders if the agenda is to cut us off from the big Island. Somebody sleeping on the job and as usual the THA is passing the buck.

  5. I have to emphatize with the pilots as i’ve witnessed with my own two eyes planes struggling to make height after taking off from Tobago. Where we live we can see the ferries passing and the planes landing and taking off. My heart was in my stomach one night as i swore that plane was going to end up in the sea. This has happened on more than one occasion and i”m usually petrified when any of my family or friends are flying over. While i agree this situation has been ongoing for years it’s time for this shit to stop NOW. This government playing tricks with politics and the blame game has to end. As for the dinosaur ferry that’s coming i’m awaiting answers. Meanwhile waiting to see the newly leased cargo boat pass in front our home on it’s trial run.

  6. Those DC9’s are less reliable tho and cost more to opperate

  7. It is only this airline can discontinue or remove flights and still boast they are able to maintain schedules. This is one of the weakest excuses used and has been used over the 60+ years of BWIA into CAL. Worst they still assume the public must accept this. It is amusing to conclude that you replace one aircraft for another with twice the capacity and voila your problem is solved. You are subjecting passengers to less choice regarding departure scheduling which introduces a new problem…Duh!!!
    An old into new issue remains the ‘untouchable’ pilots…save us

  8. you know, the CAL board is full of dimwhits eh…..those propeller planes that they have cant hold any sort of luggage.

    United/Delta STILL using the DC9 for trips that are an hour or two hour long. So really, who’s gettnig the kick back here? wheres the wastage going?

  9. Actually, I think the government should assist wherever possible in inter-island travel. If the TTSL followed the example of the Pro League, they would simply keep all the Tobago teams out of the league. But that comes at a heavy cost for the Sister Isle.

    • That’s all well and good if the money is there to pay for it.
      But when every athlete on NATIONAL TEAMS in other sports (and these would be the best athletes the country has in their respective sport hence they’re on the NATIONAL TEAM) have to fork out thousands of dollars every year to participate in regional competitions while athletes in the second tier (who are not on a NATIONAL TEAM) of a sport get paid for, then something is more than a little bit wrong.

    • Fair enough. There should be some consistency there. Something in writing too.

    • Do these clubs fundraise? Is there even any initiative or effort to not have to go to the government for this?
      How many times do the Trinidad clubs have to go to Tobago? 2? 3? How many people 25?
      25×300=$7500. $7500×3=$22500. Add 10% contingency = $25000.
      So if 25 people sell 15 boat cruise tickets at $150/ticket, then you get your 25k plus the cost to rent the boat.

    • Chabeth, all Pro League and TTSL clubs raise large chunks of their operating budgets themselves.
      The Govt assists but doesn’t bankroll.

    • I don’t mean sponsorship. I mean fundraising (BBQ, car wash, cake sale) like what KIDS in other sports do.
      But forget it yes… when it comes to sport, football is the one percent.?

    • No Chabeth Haynes cricket is the rich boy of Caribbean sport. The likes of Bravo and Narine are multi millionaires while Molino,Joevin etc can’t even talk money talk with these guys

    • And a bar b q can’t help a football team pay salaries, for instance my 2nd division super league team’s stipend not salary is around $15,000 a month.

    • Molino and Joevin not playing at the same international level as Bravo et al. I think Yorke in his heyday and Levi in his future days (idk what he’s getting paid now) would be better comparisons to Bravo and company.
      But also, I don’t know how much money the government pumps into cricket, and its various leagues compared to football.
      Travis, if you have a boat ride and sell 500 tickets at $200/ticket you raise 100k. Do it twice a year.
      Sometimes I really feel like you all live in some kind of football bubble. 2nd division super league team? Is that third tier in the country? You talking about giving that level of athlete state funding while there are national team athletes forking out $3500 to represent the country (and win medals for the country)? Imagine if you are a parent with two athletes on that team? 7k.
      And these kids don’t get any stipend for anything. They pay dues to be part of a club. Plus entry fees to enter the competitions that they have to in order to qualify for the national team.

    • Kids shouldn’t get a stipend though… NCAA rules etc… but just making the point of monies going in and out.

    • There’s rainbow cup triathlon every year in Tobago. If you want to participate, you fund your own way to Tobago.

    • Or let the whole super league come together and throw a carnival fete. 5000 people paying $300 is 1.5 mil. Do something. Anything. But this thing where football leagues always running to the state is ridiculous.

    • I won’t say a BBQ won’t help. It won’t come close to covering it but it’s good to do stuff like that all the same.
      But I’m guessing Super League clubs raise corporate sponsorship for most of their costs. Right Travis?

    • I think Chabeth Haynes misunderstood my statement. We ,I.e my super league team doesn’t get Government funding we have to”find” $15,000 to pay players a lil change to keep them going. I agree with all the fundraising advise, but disagree that Jievin and molino can’t be compared to Bravo and co. They play in a league that has players making 6 7 8 million a yr more than every European league bar the top 5 leagues. Also they are the top players on our respective cricket and football teams,si the comparison can be made. You complain about the pro league money do you have any idea the salary of pro league players ? It’s embarrassing but when the people come to a match they want us to beat the best that CONCACAF has to offer ,while the WI can’t even make the cut for the ICC champions trophy with a team full of well off sportsmen . While I agree that sports like athletics suffer for funding that’s not football’s fault thats the state business to be equitable in disbursement of funding.

    • Travis, I understood what you were saying but does your super league team pays its way to Tobago? Or is that at the expense of the state?
      salary of a pro league player? It’s not somewhere between 3k and 7k or thereabouts? Think about that though… a parent of top athletes in their sport spending more than a pro league athlete makes so that their kids can be on a national team. And a pro league player not even bound to be on a national team.
      My point is about the level of athletes in their sports and the extent of state support. Not saying it’s football’s fault but football always ready to gripe when people talk about cuts. Say reduce the subvention to pro league teams and see what happens nah.
      As for Joevin, I’ll agree to disagree. They’re not playing in the top league in the world, Bravo et al are.
      And I don’t know how much the state contributes financially to cricket West Indies.

    • Chabeth the governments around the Caribbean spend taxpayers money to build stadia for the West Indies and then they pay the West Indies to play in them!
      I know the cricket board still gets state money too. I’m not sure what for. Probably development.

    • Well that’s a financial arrangement I’m not clear on in terms of other uses of the stadia and how the governments would generate additional revenue from the stadia etc.
      But if cricket gets money for development that’s not a problem for me. I don’t have a problem if the state pays for national football teams to travel etc etc
      My problem is with second and third level athletes who are paid and can’t even sniff national call-ups getting better state support (especially for their level) than national athletes in other sports. In what other support does an adult athlete who is nowhere near to the national level get any kind of support from the government? That’s recreational activity. And I just don’t see any genuine effort by football clubs to raise money. And I don’t mean via sponsorship. And then you say well no sponsors, so let’s go to the government and ask for state funds/resources. I mean at least try nah.

    • Chabeth do you think participation figures should be considered here?
      The Super League alone would have about 500 young men.
      In contrast, the entire hockey community is probably 200 persons. Should the government also consider how many of their citizens are participating and their backgrounds?

    • Also the fact that the ICC doesn’t have 10 good members will make it easier for those cricketers to play at the highest level. The CFU alone has 23 full members , and btw we continue to have played leaving our shores and getting pro contracts abroad in all the mess that is T&T football some who can’t m or not getting a sniff at our national team. But I agree and I’ve said it that ALL the clubs besides Connection don’t have a proper business model if any at all

    • No, I don’t, Lasana. Sorry. Not at the adult level.
      That’s like telling me somebody who once had Olympic dreams of being a runner, now jogs around the Savannah and participates in local marathons, so we should give them a stipend for that and pay for them to go to Tobago to participate in a marathon there.
      How many people jog around wherever every day?

    • Chabeth, i hear your point. But the football pyramid goes: Pro League, TTSL One, TTSL Two, zonal football, minor league football, fete match, sweat…
      To compare pro league and/or TTSL to a jog around the Savannah… well that’s way off base to be honest.
      At present a TTSL player is on the national team for Ecuador for instance.

    • As I said The Govt has to be blamed for the inequitable distribution of funds . I am from the football fraternity and with the scarce resources i campaign to get the best for my fraternity but I acknowledge that a lot more has to be done for netball,boxing, athletics,hockey etc

    • It’s not like my fete match team asking for State funds.

    • I hope Chabeth Haynes don’t ever become minister of sports LoL football dead lol

    • We will keep Darryl Smith yes! ???

    • Travis, I love football! I go to pro league, super league, and national team games.
      And I don’t think it’s way off at all Lasana. If road running had all the leagues that football has, somebody running around the savannah and participating in marathons would be the same level as the super league. Especially the second tier super league.
      Tell me something… how many hours a week a super league team trains? Division one and two?

    • My team trains 4 days a week . 3 training and match day. Football unlike other sports has certain rigors that will not allow for training hrs comparable to other top level sports .A training session never or should never last longer than 2 hrs . Even at the top leagues teams hardly ever train more than twice a day.

    • There are kids in other sports training more than that. I’m just saying…

    • Chabeth, Lionel Messi doesn’t train more than that. Footballers have specific sorts of training. What does it matter if a chess player trains more?

    • Well I guess my explanation for that matters not. So take win. Football will continue to be the “world’s” game. Not running,hockey, basketball,cricket etc etc. So don’t hate the players or the game

    • It’s a saying from hip hop that I tweaked btw

    • Lasana, you’re telling me Messi trains three days a week? All year round? How many hours is this per week? And this is two days on the field, one day in the gym?

    • Three days training. Two match days. One or two days just warm down essentially. No day’s session is longer than a match which is an hour and a half.
      Footballers go to training about 8am, home by lunch, sleep and spend time with their families or go out.
      You’re disappointed chabeth? Messi and Pogba should get a pay cut? Lol.

  10. $70k/mth for how many months? How many football leagues is the state supporting and to what final figure?