The standoff between the government of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the cash-strapped BVI Airways appears far from over, despite both parties earlier declaring that they were trying to settle the impasse.
The dispute follows an agreement through which the BVI government contributed $7 million towards the private airline’s efforts to start direct flights between the BVI and Miami in the United States.
But the airline is now maintaining that it does not have enough money to start flying, adding that its financial challenges were compounded by delays experienced in attaining the necessary regulatory approvals.
There is uncertainty as to whether the BVI government will pump more funds into the carrier. Premier Smith did not make a declaration one way or the other when he yesterday issued his second press statement since the dispute became public.
But the premier yesterday reminded BVI Airways that the government and people of the BVI are waiting for it to fulfil its end of the deal and commence service.
“The government of the [British] Virgin Islands, recognising the need to improve airlift into the territory for our visitors and residents alike, entered into an agreement with BVI Airways to provide the company with $7 million to operate direct flights between Miami and the British Virgin Islands.”
“Having provided the agreed support, this government and people are awaiting the commencement of the much anticipated direct Miami/BVI flights,” Premier Smith said in a release yesterday, July 19.
He, earlier this month, made a similar declaration to the airline. At the time, he said: “The government has fully discharged its responsibility to BVI Airways by providing $7 million as a subsidy in keeping with the terms of the agreement. The government therefore hopes that BVI Airways will begin flights without any further delay.”
Premier defends airport work
BVI Airways, between the premier’s two declarations, announced that it has laid off all pilots and flight attendants.
It also chided central government, as well as the government’s BVI Airport Authority that manages the Terrence B Lettsome International Airport.
It stated that the airport has not completed the contractually agreed improvements, which would ‘meet basic commercially acceptable standards for processing passenger volume of this size’.
Premier Smith, in his response yesterday, defended the pace of the works being executed at the airport.
“The Airport Authority has put in place most of what was agreed to enhance the arrivals and departure experience of BVI Airways passengers including an office, additional seating, air conditioning and two ticket counters,” the premier continued. “The Airport Authority is awaiting definite word on the time of commencement of flight operations to complete any further arrangements specific to BVI Airways.”