Govt makes final decision on BWIA
Driselle Ramjohn email@example.com
Friday, September 8th 2006
GOVERNMENT has made a final decision on the future of beleaguered local carrier BWIA.
Public Administration Minister Dr Lenny Saith, the chairman of a Cabinet sub-committee on BWIA,
said last night the decision had resulted in a new, and hopefully successful, business model.
"The government has accepted and approved a way forward," Saith said.
He did not give details about the new plan
and noted that such an announcement would not come from the government.
"It would be the airline's board and management to make those announcements.
I believe they are meeting with the unions (today)," he said.
When asked if Cabinet's decision yesterday
would result in a reduction in the State's 97.3 per cent shareholding in BWIA, Saith said:
"We will wait until the board announces what the Cabinet has approved as their business plan."
Industry sources confirmed that several options were presented to Government
to turn around the carrier which lost US$26 million last year
and which has been posting US$1 million a month losses
since the start of this year.
Government agreed to inject as much as US$250 million to save the carrier,
on the condition that management address several money-losing components of the more than 60-year-old airline's operations.
Strategic options included looking at discontinuing BWIA's Manchester and Costa Rica routes
(which has already happened)
and re-examining the London and New York services,
with a view to possibly cutting them if they are not profitable.
Sources have pointed out that these routes,
while usually filled to capacity, have become expensive to maintain.
An impasse in negotiations,
(which have dragged on for several months between the union and the BWIA management led by CEO Peter Davies),
led to suggestions that if BWIA could not become viable in its present state,
a new commercial entity would be formed that would focus on profitable routes such as Jamaica and Miami,
sources said yesterday.
Strategic plans also looked at improving technology at the airline,
reducing the number of aircraft and possibly cutting staff,
possibly numbering in the hundreds.
What is certain is that the BWIA plan involves airline employees and takes into consideration
the upcoming Cricket World Cup and BWIA's provision of services for this.
Minister of Agriculture Land and Marine Resources Jarrette Narine speaking at yesterday's post-Cabinet press conference at Whitehall
first announced that the Government had reached a decision. Narine said Government discussed BWIA "at great length" during yesterday's weekly Cabinet session at Whitehall and it has made its decision.
BWIA is part of a consortium of Caribbean airlines that has been awarded the contract to be the official carrier for teams, media, sponsors and VIPs, and tournament officials during the 2007 Cricket World Cup to be hosted by the West Indies from March to April.
The four BWIA workers' unions are set to meet with the management of the airline at 1.30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Port of Spain today.
The airline has also planned a media briefing on the carrier's new plans for Saturday.
Aviation, Communication and Allied Workers Union (ACAWU) president general Curtis John said yesterday: "I think they (the government) will brief the management of BWIA and the management will inform us on the decision in our meeting (today)."
"We had a meeting with the security personnel at BWIA two days ago and from all the talk at that meeting we feel that BWIA will continue. Whether it continues as BWIA West Indies Airways or as BWIA Caribbean Airways, there will be an airline," John added.