Premier Dr D Orlando Smith has suggested that the use of the ‘BVI’ in the name of the privately owned BVI Airways may prompt his administration to explore every possibility to have the airline up and flying.
BVI is the acronym for the British Virgin Islands.
BVI Airways and the BVI government have been at loggerheads over an issue that may cause both of them embarrassment internationally.
The administration had pumped $7 million into the airline for it to purchase planes and commence direct flight between the BVI and Miami in the United States.
But the airline last week declared that, although it has received all necessary regulatory approvals, it is unable to start the already delayed flights because ‘outstanding obligations’ are yet to be resolved.
The government fired back at the airline within hours, declaring that it already met its ‘obligation’, which was to contribute $7 million to BVI Airways as subsidy.
Since then, there has been widespread speculation that BVI Airways does not have enough money to get off the ground, and so is seeking further Government assistance. Neither the airline nor the government has responded to such speculation.
But, in his Mid-Term address to the territory last evening, Premier Smith commented: “There is a reason our competitors in the region do not operate air services under their own national name. There is no Air Barbados, or Air Turks and Caicos. But those destinations have the good fortune right now of having regular, direct air service from the US, and so they are relieved of that burden.”
“We are not so fortunate, and so we must roll up our sleeves and find an answer that works,” Premier Smith continued. “We take this challenge on, because we know that growing our tourism industry and our financial services industry ultimately pays off in the most important way possible – creating the revenues we need to improve the lives of the people of the BVI.” Premier Smith also gave the clearest indication yet that his government may further help BVI Airways.
“We must explore every possibility [to improve airlift], and that is what we are doing, including our ongoing effort to begin air service through BVI Airways. This ambitious concept is a challenging one to be sure.”
Premier Smith added that his administration would have waved a magic wand if that could have corrected the territory’s airlift problem.
“Let me be clear: It is intolerable that visitors flying to the BVI from the United States must make several changes and oft times travel for two days to get here. The lack of affordable, convenient air service to our territory puts us at a significant competitive disadvantage against other destinations with regular jet service, including direct flights from the US.”
“We lose thousands of visitors, tens of millions of dollars, hundreds of good jobs every single year that this situation continues. So we absolutely must act. There is no easy solution to this problem. If we could wave a wand and make improved air service happen, we would surely do so. But that is not an option,” Premier Smith further told the territory last evening, July 10.
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