Poor equipment choices and pilot strikes had assisted in a serious decline in service levels so it is perhaps somewhat surprising that instead of sorting out the airline's fundamental problems the government instead bought a new fleet of aircraft! The airline identified the long-range Tristar 500 as its first widebody aircraft in 1978 and government permission was gained for two firm orders and two options. The first aircraft was delivered in January 1980 as 9Y-TGJ 'Flamingo'. She was followed six months later by 9Y-TGN. TGJ's original silver belly seems to have lasted less than a year.
The short-medium haul fleet consisting of four Douglas DC-9-51s was replaced from 1986 by McDonnell Douglas MD-83s following the successful lease of a Frontier example in 1985. Nine MD-82/83s were acquired in the late 1980s as part of a plan to expand services to connect South America to New York using Port au Spain as a regional hub. The titling was updated in the late 1980s to say 'We Are The Caribbean' and the Tristars were also renamed with TGJ becoming 'Sunjet Trinidad', TGN 'Sunjet Barbados', THA 'Sunjet Antigua' and N3140D 'Sunjet St Lucia'. Unfortunately neither the renaming, regional expansion or long haul routes increased profitability and by the early 1990s the government was interested in privatising the airline.
Initially the plan looked like it was a goer as the airline posted a profit in the September 1995 quarterly results of $7.2 million despite the impact of Hurricane Luis. It almost looked like the airline might makea profit for the first time in 55 years but somehow it ended the year making a loss of about $5 million. It also failed to start advertised services to Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires and Acker resigned early in 1996 citing 'personal reasons'. His replacement was also short-lived and the search for a new CEO ended with Gilles Filliatreault. Losses for 1996 totalled $27 million. The A340s were cancelled and the two A321s that were delivered lasted less than a year.
Filliatreault had been CEO of LIAT (hardly renowned itself for profits) and he failed to make a difference being sacked in February 1998, 17 months after he came onboard following the airline posting a $15 million loss. This time another consultancy group took charge, CA International, headed by Conrad Aleung who once again took up residence as President and CEO.
The airline continued to lurch from crisis to crisis despite the introduction of a smart new image in December 1999. The Tristars would continue to ply the reduced long-haul network to London, and even started a new service to Manchester, until January 2003 when they were replaced by the first of a pair of Airbus A340-300s. With no resolution to its fundamental issues the writing was on the wall however and following failed negotiations with staff in 2006 the airline was wound up and replaced by a new airline to be named Caribbean Airlines.
Interestingly 9Y-TGN wasn't broken up and instead was to be preserved. I'm not sure if this was completed but here's thestory as of 2004.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: