While stating that he should have good news to report about BVI Airways in the coming weeks, Premier Dr D Orlando Smith last evening declared that his government will fight with every ounce of strength to ensure the privately owned airline delivers on its commitment to the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
He added that he would also ensure the territory is fully compensated if he fails in his efforts to have BVI Airways fulfill its commitment, which is to commence direct flights between the BVI and Miami in the United States.
The government had provided BVI Airways with $7 million to assist with preparation for the flights, but the airline later said it does not have enough money to deliver on its already delayed commitment.
Premier Smith, while being questioned in the House of Assembly yesterday, said BVI Airways is now negotiating with potential investors in order to fulfill the terms of its contract with the BVI government.
A few hours later, the premier issued a multi-pronged statement in which he made his most combative remark since his government’s relationship with BVI Airways recently took a turn for the worse.
He said: “As is well known, we have to work through a set of difficult issues with the management of BVI Airways. Our hope is to have positive news to report on that front in the coming weeks.”
“But let me be clear on two points. First, this government will fight with every ounce of strength to make sure that BVI Airways makes good on its commitments to this territory. And, if it cannot or will not do so, that the people of this territory are compensated for that loss.”
“Second, this government will not stop working for a solution to the air access problem until more planes start landing and taking off from Beef Island. We will not give up just because it is hard. We will not give up because it is too important to our future,” Premier Smith further told the territory.
Show us your ‘magic formula’
He stated that Opposition leader Andrew Fahie, who has been critical of Government’s contribution to BVI Airways, should tell the territory how else he would have tried to solve the major issue of airlift.
“Our territory must have improved air access. Period. Full stop! It is downright dangerous for our long-term strength to continue in the current situation where visitors to our shores have limited choices for how to get here,” Premier Smith reasoned.
He continued: “This situation [regarding airlift] makes the BVI more expensive and less convenient to reach by air than our competitors in the region. That is a real problem and we must fix it.”
“If the Honourable Leader of the Opposition has a magic formula for doing so, let him present it,” added Premier Smith.
He stated that, in the absence of such ‘wonders’ as to how else the Opposition would have addressed the airlift issue, the current government ‘has been hard at work to find practical solutions’.
Premier Smith noted that the two ‘remedies’ explored are the deal signed with BVI Airways, and the proposed expansion of the runway at Terrence B Lettsome Airport on Beef Island.
“Lengthening the airport runway would allow larger jets to land at Beef Island, which could lead American Airways or perhaps other international carriers to start flying here,” Premier Smith further said.
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