BVI Airways today confirmed recent speculation that it does not have enough money to commence its long delayed service between the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Miami in the United States, adding that it has laid off all its pilots and flight attendants.
The privately owned airline, in an ‘open letter’ to the BVI public, declared: “The pre-operating carry costs alone have cost us millions of dollars over the past year, and have depleted most of our cash reserves. The irony is, now that we are ready to start flying, we need to raise more money in order to do so…”
“We have been in discussions with the government for months, and are doing our best to raise the additional funds required, and will start flying once the necessary improvements are completed and the additional funds are secured,” added BVI Airways.
The government, despite outrage from some taxpayers, had pumped $7 million into the private airline that has a reputation of struggling financially.
Since then, the situation has been a roller-roaster ride.
BVI Airways suffered numerous delays as it sought approvals from Air Safety Support International in the United Kingdom, the US Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security.
“The regulatory process took much longer than all parties expected, and has put a significant strain on the company’s finances,” BVI Airways declared. “There are also significant costs involved such as hiring and training flight crew; acquiring aircraft, maintenance personnel, parts, facilities, ground handling, station personnel, ticketing, and reservations – to name just a few…”
According to BVI Airways, some people may be underestimating the gravity of the pre-operating works an airline has to undergo.
“Most people don’t realize that we needed a full organization with full complement of trained pilots, flight attendants, backup crews, and planes in order to complete the application process. We have almost 40 people on the payroll.”
The airline, in the meantime, said it hopes the staff lay-off will be temporary. “BVI Airways regretfully announces that it is immediately laying off its entire flight crew – pilots and flight attendants – as a result of ongoing delays. Hopefully, this will be a very short-term situation, as we continue to work through the remaining issues with the government, and will be able to commence flights shortly,” added BVI Airways.
Disappointed with airport
BVI Airways also raised concern that, despite the setbacks it has faced, the government-owned BVI Airport Authority is yet to complete improvement works at Terrence B Lettsome International Airport.
“We have the planes, the organization, and have secured all the difficult regulatory approvals. However, improvements to the airport required under our contract to meet basic commercially acceptable standards for processing passenger volume of this size, have not been completed.”
“Passengers cannot be expected to wait in line for two hours to get though the security and immigration; this would be disastrous,” added BVI Airways.
“The current system [at Terrence B Lettsome International Airport] is antiquated and barely works for low density flights. There was a clear understanding from the onset that this needed to be corrected and better training of personnel provided prior to our launch of service.”
We know: Public tired of excuses
BVI Airways, in the meantime, said it is cognizant that the public is now tired of hearing excuses regarding the promised flights between the BVI and Miami.
“We know the public is tired of hearing excuses, and just want to see us fly. We share their frustration of the delays. Please be assured that no one wants to see the planes up in the air with paying passengers more than us,” said the airline. “The path has been challenging to say the least. But we are confident the end result will be worth the effort, and the people and the economy of the BVI will reap great benefit from this service.”
Although it sharply criticized the National Democratic Party government, Airways expressed gratitude to Premier Dr D Orlando Smith.
“Everything has been set up and in-place to ‘flip the switch’. It has been a daunting task to get to this point, and most will never appreciate what has gone into this process,” the carrier continued. “We have an incredible team that has worked tirelessly for the past two years to make this dream a reality. We would like to thank them for their dedication and hard work, and also thank the premier for his vision and support in trying to bring this vital service to the territories.”
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