(From The Trinidad Guardian, 20 May, 2001)
(Trinidad, Piarco) Ready, set... BWIA to
launch, airlines move in.
By Juhel Browne
A BWIA flight will be the first to take off from the new Piarco International Airport
terminal on Friday, an airport source disclosed last week.
After a delay of approximately 10 months, the terminal will be opened Friday. BWIA, Air
Canada and American Airlines will be conducting final tests of their terminals tomorrow
and BWIA will be conducting a full-flight simulation on Tuesday with one of its Boeing
Customs, Immigration, the baggage areas, the ramp control unit, the airline terminals, metal
detectors, escalators, and everything with regard to the terminal, "are all operational," said
Transport Minister Jearlean John. She said the building was ready and the computer
systems are in place and have been constantly tested.
Work is going apace at the facility as the airlines, concessionaires and relevant Government
agencies are attempting to meet the Friday deadline. The only area that might not be ready
in time is the connector area.
This area connects the air side east area of the terminal, where BWIA is located, to the air
side west area of the terminal, where American Airlines and Air Canada are located. John
said this was because this is the area where the concessionaires are to be located and they
would not all be ready by Friday.
John said the airlines wanted the facility commissioned on Friday so they could capitalise
on the upcoming summer season. At least three Brazil-based airlines have expressed
interest in using the airport as a hub, she said.
About 130 flights were expected next week. Incoming flights from the regional carriers like
Caribbean Star, LIAT and Eagle amount to about 14 flights a day and major carriers like
BWIA and Air Canada also have numerous flights.
Jude Alibey, AATT general manager and transition manager and officials of BWIA did not
respond to requests for an interview.
Meanwhile, John said no additional costs should be incurred on the new terminal building.
Last week she disclosed the construction of the terminal had now cost the taxpayers a little
more than TT $1 billion.
"The terminal building, for all intents and purposes, is finished," she said. The next phase
will come from encouraging investors to develop the 1,000 square hectares of land
surrounding the terminal.
Jeremy Khan, president of the Airlines Association and Suriname Airways representative
said the airlines would only have to pay increased fees for the operational costs of the new
terminal but were assured by the Government they would not have to repay any of the
"You can't move from a two-bedroom house into a six-bedroom house without an increase
in fees," Khan said. When asked if these fees will result in an increase in the cost of airline
tickets, he said: "Consumer costs will not be much higher."
John believes it was money well spent. Although she said there may be some minor bugs
to be ironed out after the opening, she noted this was expected in the construction of any
She compared the new terminal to the terminals of airports in the United States and said
any US national who has travelled through any one of those "state-of-the-art" facilities
"will find the same service" at Piarco.
"It's a lovely building. I think it's going to be the best in the Caribbean," said Khan, after a
meeting by the airlines association, John and officials of the Airports Authority on Friday.
Khan said Suriname Airways was "ready to move in now" because it does not use any
automated check-in/boarding pass system. However, he expects their counters to become
automated in the near future.
LIAT moves in
Paula Benjamin, LIAT regional manager, said: "I strongly believe this airport is one
Trinidadians and Tobagonians can be very proud of."
LIAT hopes to fully occupy its area by Thursday and will have two aircraft fly in that night
to depart when the full roster of flights begin from the new terminal.
Khan said that should happen on Saturday since the cut-off date for airline readiness is
midnight on Friday.