BVI News

Visitors waste days just to get here then USVI benefit, expansion a priority — Walwyn

Photo by Davion Smith/BVI News

National Democratic Party (NDP) Chairman Myron Walwyn has promised to kick-start the airport expansion project if his party is re-elected into office at the upcoming polls.

Walwyn made the promise on Saturday during the official launch of the NDP’s At-Large candidates in Road Town.

He said air access continues to be the biggest issue plaguing the territory’s tourism industry.

He further said the territory cannot afford to have visitors using two days out of their vacation time just to travel to and from the British Virgin Islands.

“We need to get them here quicker … I love our neighbours in the USVI but they are eating our lunch because our tourists have to pass through St Thomas to get here,” he said.

“We need to extend the runway at TB Lettsome International Airport – it needs to be done. It can be done and under a new NDP government. It will be done.”

Walwyn said he believes the best way to do this is through the right public/private partnership that “eases the financial burden on the government and the people of the Virgin Islands and have the least environmental impact as possible.”

He said the territory must be made to be more attractive to other countries.

The airport project

Last October, Premier Dr D Orlando Smith said there would be progress on the project before he demits office.

Fast forward to this month during a public discussion on the project, it was revealed that the project is still at the infancy stage.

The project is estimated to cost some $250 million, out of which at least $153 million will be used to expand the runway from 4645 feet to about 7100 feet so larger aircraft can land in the territory.

The balance of the funds is projected to go towards the development of the airport’s terminal building.

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57 Comments

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  1. Laura says:

    This is so inaccurate… if you travel from London or New York the flight prices to the BVI are exorbitantantly more to get to the BVI than they are to get to STT. Both islands can benefit if there was a more effective way for tourists to not have to wait hours for a ferry to turn up. Link dedicated ferries with flight routes i.e. New York arrivals 130pm arrival ensure there is a ferry for 2 to 230 pm departure to the BVI. Weighing everything on this airport expansion is not smart.. learn from lessons of other countries with larger airports.. are they feasible? Do airlines seem interested? Is there a demand for direct flights? Personally most tourists would not mind the travel by sea if it was consistent and not haphazard.

    Like 55
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    • Agreed says:

      I agree with you entirely. The Government just cannot see (or refuse to see) the darn forest because the trees are in the way. They talk about it being environmentally sensitive yet that is impossible. Never mind a multiple of other reasons not to do this project.
      What the BVI has to sell people is the beauty of our shores. Let the USVI grow and be a mess, let them be the hub, that’s fine. They have the facilities already there. It is a perfect symbiotic relationship for us. Ultimately and at day’s end, the BVI is where people will come to get away and see our island’s beauty.
      As Laura says :- have a fast efficient ferry service dedicated to incoming and outgoing flights, allow for flexibility in delays, and have Customs and Immigration on board to clear everything prior to arrival thereby allowing for a seamless off load of passengers into our islands. I just cannot see what is wrong with this plan from a functional, logical, and cost point of view. I’d love to hear an opposing point of view n this matter, and I am open to changing my mind if it all makes sense for our country.

      Like 32
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    • Uncle Tom's Airport says:

      Any discussion regarding the extension to the runway should be part of a regional transportation plan. The NDP has never put forward a regional transportation plan – they only tend to favor large scale projects which according to the Economist are grossly mismanaged and open for corruption.

      Next, we have to understand how we will finance this. It’s unlikely that we will be able to directly borrow another $200M considering that we still have $100M to pay on the Hospital. So, that leaves private financing. In order to support that a third party will be able to apply their own arrival fees. Considering current arrival rates that means an average family of 4 will be paying over $300 to arrive and depart on top of the huge taxes, security fees, environmental fees, etc that we are currently charging. So, before the end of the day, a ticket to/from the BVI will cost $600 more than one from STT.

      The NDP is simply selling dreams. Our country is in fiscal ruin because of their fiscal mismanagement and corruption (according to the Economist.) TIME FOR A CHANGE.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peebles_Hospital

      Like 15
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    • Huh says:

      And how did you came about your findings? Lead me to where it have a direct flight to the bvi from the Us or London.. Do proper research before you coming blogging St.kitts has an international airport which have direct flights to and from London but do you know on days when British airways lands in st.kitts it goes to Antigua after which even allows kittian to travel to Antigua cheaper than with liat an also British airways flight to St.kitts is 3 days or so per week which was put in place to eliminate passengers from going to Antigua then boarding a smaller plane to st.kitts..Our thinking is so small how about expanding the airport then open talks with JetBlue for a 2 days a week flight to the bvi which means when they leave the US one stop in Puerto Rico then to the BVI which gives our visitors a chance to plan their trip around the dates for such flights we could do like wise with airlines that operates out of Antigua,St.Kitts and St.Maarten

      Like 7
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      • Anonymous says:

        You have valid points in what you say. However, the issue is with how many jets you need a day to come in that allows the amount of people necessary to pay interest and principal on $200 million plus. At a base 6% return on interest I estimated that you would need 1000 plus passengers a day to cover costs. Viability is key, it has to make business sense, and if you are going into a public/private partnership you can safely bet the private side will want their pound of flesh. They will not be in it for charitable purposes I can assure you.

      • @huh -- Laura says:

        I made mention no where in my discourse that there was a direct flight to the BVI, i stated that the prices flying to the BVI were extremely high and I made the case why flying through STT made more viable sense from that standpoint. In order for the BVI to ascertain direct flights there has to be a DEMAND (just because we want something means we have to have it). It will be cut throat and a great money loss if this venture doesn’t turn a profit (case in point the 7.2Million dollars already wasted).

        What is needed is strategic thinking on the BVI’s part on how to make the tourism packet more innovative and attractive to not just returning tourist but the boomer generation too. We don’t have thtat much to offer so we need to up the anit without losing what we have, our unique shoreline, low cirme and great food. We don’t need direct flights to enjoy that!!!

    • Not2Sure says:

      100% agree.

      Like 3
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    • Einstein says:

      Agree – it all starts with a simple plan.

      Imagine modern high speed ferries picking people up in STT at their new airport ferry dock?

      Imagine the new ferry schedule which aligns with plane arrivals so there is no delay.

      Imagine having immigration services onboard or immigration precheck in place. Imagine having US Customs in the BVI to fast track departures so the ferry can land anywhere in the USVI? (They do this in Canada now.)

      Like 17
    • What Time Is It? says:

      @ Laura you are so on point and easy to agree with. It is easy to imagine direct fights into TBIA as an answer-all solution to our tourism dilemma. However, to date no meaningful information or data has been presented to substantiate the case of committing hundreds of millions o tax-payers dollars to make the extended airport a reality; or meaningful, understandable data on the payoff for example over 5, 10 to 15 years.
      Meanwhile no serious attention has been paid to our already existing ferry transportation into/out of St. Thomas which can be much more beneficial to us if by investing/upgrading to better, faster more efficient ferries, running schedules synchronized with arrival and departure to Cyril King International. Add to that, pre-clearing visitors on board by immigration and customs, while uniformed attendants entertain serve refreshing tropical punches while guests keenly watch videos of regattas, scuba diving, festival etc.

  2. Anything for a Vote says:

    NDP had that project for eight years. Now what?

    Like 19
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  3. ??? says:

    How could kedric sit with the NDP while they campaign without him?

    Like 8
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  4. ndp heckler says:

    and how much will be stolen?

    Like 20
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    • TJ says:

      Elect Myron and watch the m—- disappear.

      Like 7
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    • Not2Sure says:

      Yep. They just lost my vote. Airport expansion is a terrible idea – facilitating an efficient ferry link with St Thomas would be a significantly better way to enhance airlift in and out of the Territory. Cheaper, better options for travelers.

      If the expand Beef Island:
      1. It will take decades
      2. It will go massively over budget
      3. Airlines still won’t want to fly here anyhow
      4. If by any chance they do fly here, it will still be massively expensive.

      This idea needs to be killed. I won’t support a party that supports it.

      Like 13
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  5. bemused.. says:

    Where does the two days come from..? Many tourist arrive from Europe- same day from major European hubs connecting via Antigua/ St Martin. Connection improved with inter Caribbean. Puerto Rico has excellent connections and into Beef Island with frequent service. Only fly in ointment is STT ferry connection which is overdue investment and proper organization. Earlier commentator correct – arrange designated transfer ferry for STT arrivals, this, with immigration control on board could provide an excellent arrival experience at a tiny fraction of cost.

    Like 17
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  6. E. Leonard says:

    True, air access is vital to getting tourists into and out of the BVI in a timely manner. But starting direct or non-stop flights from major markets to TBLIA to minimize some current inconveniences will be a major challenge. Thus, the final decision will come down to a consistent passenger load factor (PLF), measure of the capacity use of an airline. It is a key metric in airline operations; it is the ratio of Revenue Passenger Mile (RPM)/Available Seat Mile (ASM); it varies for each airline. For example, the estimated PLF for 2017 for AA, Delta and Jet Blue are 81.9%, 85.6% and 84.3%, respectively. Airlines are constantly looking for and starting new routes, scaling back existing routes or stopping existing routes, altogether. Profitable PLF keep airlines airborne.

    Moreover, the airline business is a razor-thin profit margin, capital-intensive and a safety-intensive business. Every airline take off and landing incurs a fix cost that must be covered by paying passengers or cargo. Further, airlines must do better than breakeven to stay in business. The length of the runway/airside or how modern the terminal/landside facilities are not the major factor that attracts and keeps an airline on a route. It is profitable PLF.

    Whether TBLIA is operated by government or the operations is outsourced to a Public Private Venture (PPV), it still comes down to passenger loading. If a profitable PLF can be attained and sustained, airline(s) will strongly consider flying a route. Sometimes government has to subsidize passsnger loading to get and keep an airline flying to a destination. As hotels must put heads in beds to stay in business, ferries putting passengers on board to stay sailing or buses carrying passengers to stay rolling so too must airlines put butts (paying)in seats to stay airborne.

    Moreover, a PPV looks at earning as high a rate of return on investment as practical in a short period of time. It will also take a close look at the revenue stream(s) and sustainability of those streams for recouping principal plus interest on its investment. Surely, if a PPV is laying out $25OK, it will take a close look at how it will recoup its investment plus interest. It will compare investing $250K on TBLIA with other potential investment(s) to make a judgement on where and on what to invest.

    Like 8
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    • Socrates says:

      @E. Leonard, what is the difference, if any, between non-stop and direct flights? Is passenger load factor as big a hindrance or possible show stopper as you are claiming? Is the small size and limited airport operations and the huge $250K estimated for the runway extension and terminal upgrade causing investors to take pause? Would a public private partnership or public private venture require increasing fees to recoup its investment that would in essence kill the competitiveness of TBLIA? Would modernizing the ferry system and synchronizing schedule(s) with flight operations at Cyril King help tourism? St. Thomas is the same size as Tortola so how does it make its airport work? Are there too many ferry service seats and not enough passengers? Would creating a ferry cooperation help with the too many seats and too few passengers? Other locales dot the I’s and cross the T’s on admitting visitors so should BVI do the sam? Do BVI visitors to other countries line up and wait for immigration and customs? Are you an aviation operative?

      Like 1
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      • E. Leonard says:

        @Socrates, too many questions so I will just take a stab at a few:
        1. What is the difference, if any, between non-stop and direct flights? A non-stop flight is a direct flight between destination A and C; no stops in between, ie, MIA to EIS. A direct flight is a flight between A and C with one or more stops in between, eg, MIA to EIS with a stop at SJU; flight number does not change.

        2. Is passenger load factor as big a hindrance or possible show stopper as you are claiming? Yes.

        3.Are you an aviation operative? No. But struggled through airline economics and other classes.

    • Shirley says:

      Mr. E. Leonard. With all due respect Sir, I believe you meant to say that the PPV will be laying out $225M. K= thousands, M = millions.

      Our goal is simple. We want more tourists but not just any tourists. Right? We don’t want tourists that don’t spend money. We don’t want tourists that have a high environmental impact. We don’t want tourists that totally disrupt our way of life. Do we?

      Would we rather have 10,000 tourists arriving each day that spend an average of $5 apiece or 1,000 tourists a day that spend $100 apiece?

      Who puts the cruise ship passenger arrival fees in their pocket? Shouldn’t that be the government? How does this benefit the people? We have roads to rebuild. Schools to rebuild. Fires at the dump to put out. We need reliable access to electricity and water. We need to clean up the raw sewage flowing through our streets.

      The NDP would like to make our nation dumber by not rebuilding our schools. The NDP would like to make all of his dumber by slowing down our internet speeds and making it more difficult for our poorer brothers and sisters to read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peebles_Hospital

      We have been taken advantage of for too long!

      Let’s Think Smart.

      Like 1
      Dislike 1
  7. Hah says:

    The problem with the BVI is that every project always seem to come with highly inflated prices. Pier Parks, hospitals, runway extensions, walls and roads cost way more than others around the Caribbean and the world and it’s not like we have the biggest and best. The completed price is always way higher than the estimated cost. The extension isn’t a terrible idea just maybe the timing. Some travellers will prefer the ease of direct access. If going through St. Thomas saves hundreds on ticket prices many will still continue to use that route. If the Airlines are not able to make sufficient profit to justify providing direct flights they will not provide the service. I hope government has covered all the bases this time. Just because the means of direct flights is available does not mean that the project will be successful for the airlines, taxpayers or the BVI. We have seen government celebrate prematurely when the BVI Airways planes arrived for the first time and we all know how that story end.

    Like 13
    Dislike 1
  8. E. Leonard says:

    True, air access is vital to getting tourists into and out of the BVI in a timely manner. But starting direct or non-stop flights from major markets to TBLIA to minimize some current inconveniences will be a major challenging. The final decision will come down to consistent passenger load factor (PLF), measure of the capacity use of an airline. It is a key metric in airline operations; it is the ratio of Revenue Passenger Mile (RPM)/Available Seat Mile (ASM); it varies for each airline. For example, the estimated PLF for 2017 for AA, Delta and Jet Blue are 81.9%, 85.6% and 84.3%, respectively. Airlines are constantly looking for and starting new routes, scaling back existing routes or stopping existing routes altogether. Profitable PLF keep airlines airborne.

    Moreover, the airline business is a razor-thin profit margin, capital-intensive and a safety-intensive business. Every airline take off and landing incurs a fix cost that must be covered by paying passengers or cargo. Further, airlines must do better than breakeven to stay in business. The length of the runway/airside or how modern the terminal/landside facilities are, are not the major factor that attracts and keeps an airline on a route. It is profitable PLF.

    Whether TBLIA is operated by government or the operations is outsourced to a Public Private Venture (PPV), it comes down to passenger loading. If a profitable PLF can be attained and sustained, airlines will fly a route. Sometimes government has to subsidize passsnger loading to get and keep an airline flying. Hotels must put heads in beds to stay in business and so too airlines have to put butts (paying)in seats to stay airborne.

    7

    Like 3
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  9. What a thing says:

    I traveled from Orlando on 3 Jan on spirit airline and the flight was nonstop we left there after 11:30 and was able to catch the 3:30 boat to Tortola these guys are self destructing right in front of our eyes ,don’t you think that they could have worked with the ferry service providers to have late trip if they think that they are loosing out on something ,for example the ferry boats use to have a 9 pm trip during the Christmas season a few years ago and it worked very well I remembered coming from st Thomas on Christmas Eve after shopping in STThomas .They had the chance to do what ever they wanted to do in 8 years they even had a snap election so now we the people must be stupid not only that if you have a waver don’t you have to go to stthomas in order to go to the USA so what does that benefit your people travel wise just asking for now I think that we are doing ok until we get people in there who we can trust to do a real good job

    Like 11
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    • Tall man says:

      Dummy that’s Orlando what about people who have to left from South Africa, Australia,New Zealand and way up in Europe I work in the charter boat industry for 20years sometimes people luggage ain’t show up until 2 days after some people even had to stay overnight in st.thomas.. what happen if a flight delay? Who going to pay the overtime for the ferry workers and immigration and whoever else have to work? Does expanding the airport means you have to got everyday flight in and out of the US,UK,Canada and these other big countries… even bigger countries than us don’t even have everyday flight so who is little BVI nothing wrong with a 3 days a week direct flight so what you does now is force ppl to travel within these days.. BVI will forever be behind time because of people like you

      Like 4
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  10. R. Griesdale says:

    Many people I know are pleased with the little extra effort to get to the BVI. Larger aircraft disgorging too many people will ruin the experience for all. Like cruise ships do. Just keep improving the facilities and the faithful will keep coming.
    Quality, not quantity.

    Like 14
    Dislike 2
  11. ST.Thomas says:

    Sorry Myron, we are about to benefit more now that our Governor Just signed the bill to Legalize Medicinal Marijuana.That is a lot of revenue for ST.Thomas and who open up a dispensary.

    Like 5
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  12. Hone boy says:

    You all tend to forget after the hurricane 2017 no large carrier could land at beef island for evacuation .if we have a state of emergency natural disaster the qiuckest way to get out with large amont of people is through the airport we need it now.please think for the future we need our own dont depand on any it always best to have your own.thank you

    Like 3
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    • Smh says:

      Sir, your best argument for the airport expansion is an evacuation? Lol We trying to get people in preferably not out. By the way natural disasters can affect Airports as well.

      Like 8
      Dislike 1
    • Me again says:

      @ hone boy. The RDA and the UK got ships stationed in the caribbean that will be in the BVI waters in 24 hrs if there is an emergency be it Natural or Man made
      Timing for the airport improvement is NOT right definetly NOT under a NDP administration due to their Financial Record Performance

      Like 6
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  13. USA says:

    BVI, you better get on board.You guys need a big economy boost.

    Like 1
    Dislike 5
  14. Sailor says:

    The Chinese have dramatically scaled back on their foreign investments. They were the only investment partner for this deal. No one else will touch it. Too many easier ways to make money than getting in bed with the corrupt BVI govt.

    Like 4
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  15. Haha says:

    Myron believe he is the smartest or believe he invented the game of politricks. He have this thing going where he keep saying that people telling him the race is between the NDP and VIP. He trying to fool his own supporters some of which are still divided and undecided into voting straight party so that they dont even think about considering PVIM because it would be a “wasted” vote. Some in the NDP are still loyal to Ronnie. Myron won the elections for chairman by only 17 votes. A lot of the supporters that favored Ronnie jumped ship to PVIM. As a matter of fact most of PVIM is made up of former disgruntled NDP members. If NDP think that Diego will get the number of votes that Pickering used to get they’re insane and if the 7th district remain loyal to Pickering the NDP in for more heartbreak. Every vote matter this election it doesn’t look like there will be any landslide party victories this time.

    Like 9
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  16. Political Intelligence says:

    Myron! What froff and dribble are you talking about? Air access to the territory is not the biggest issue plaguing its tourism industry. It is the nasty attitude of some of the customs officials and too many of our fellow locals all together. It is possible that a tourist can get to the BVI within a day via air.

    Think about the amount of monies the government may have to pay out to the airlines in order to subsidize them for flying in with empty seats. Think about the possible subsidizing the government might be force to do via a contractual agreement with the Airport Investors, if enough passengers does not pass through TBLIA generating that profit.–(No investor, unless they are brain dead fools are going to invest monies in that airport without such a contractual agreement).

    STOP THIS AIRPORT EXPANSION NONSENSE and do the viable alternatives as mentioned by earlier commentators.

    Like 4
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  17. BVI says:

    You are disqualifying yourself again Wall-win. You have absolute no idea what kind of people come to the BVI and why they come. You might want to hire a third party to do a study and towel you. And oh, don’t forget to make transparent price for their services…

    Like 3
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  18. Uncle Buck says:

    Far too many people come from the USA, rent themselves a boat then hop back over to the USVI for their charter / vacation. People only set foot in Tortola to pick up their boat and then they’re off.

    Local day charters sometimes can’t let their guests off on a dock because all the space is taken by day trips from the USVI.

    BVI isn’t all blameless either. There just isn’t anything on island to attract tourism. No history, no parks, no events, one lousy parade a year, open sewage in town, broken up roads, rubbish everywhere, poor quality or stupidly expensive restaurants; and rotten food in the supermarket.

    But hey, this is our little secret 😉

    Like 7
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  19. OMG says:

    All of you people in Tortola is really sick or just plain out messed up. A bunch of sick men running for Government. Keep the jokes running.

    Like 2
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  20. Gerance P. says:

    All of the many many travelers here in atortola that I speak with immediately complain of the ferry service and taxi service. They have money and are willing to spend it. Let them land here and spend it here. Anyone not agreeing with that simple logic has an interest in the ferry service or ports.

    Like 4
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  21. Mr sensible says:

    Ok point 1 a partner ship of PFi is not a loan and no up front risk to BVI period .
    Point 2 there are NO direct flights from anywhere in the UKto BVI and it’s a pain to get top .
    Point 3 to fly into st Thomas ( still not direct from the UK) you need an esta and have to deal with US customs
    If a family comes on a holiday to BVI you don’t want to have to get a ferry at the end of a 18 hours of travelling with all your bags
    Expansion of the airport is a fantastic idea and will bring in new money

    Like 2
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  22. Why not just build a bridge or ferry from st John to tortola? says:

    Michael

  23. Mike w says:

    I say build a bridge or ferry from st john to tortola.

    Like 1
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  24. East End says:

    Minister Walwyn, its all about the price for the tickets.

    Like 1
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  25. Geez says:

    And how much are you going to fleece tourist out of with an even higher departure tax to pay for this needless airport expansion?
    Tourists already pay inflated prices to visit the BVI when their are much more reasonably priced destinations.
    And you have the nerve to accuse the USVI of ‘eating your lunch’. What kind of perspective is that, is that how you view our guests who come to spend their hard-earned $$$ here? If that’s the case then the BVI is eating tourists’ BREAKFAST, LUNCH AND DINNER!
    There is a perfectly reasonable airport a few miles away on St Thomas, like other have said spend some effort improving the links between that airport and the BVI and everyone will benefit. And we won’t have to destroy Trellis Bay and put up with pollution from jet aircraft here.
    All our politician want to do is SPEND SPEND SPEND so they can syphon on a nice earner for themselves.

    Like 5
    Dislike 1
  26. Ausar says:

    I can support the Minister on this one!

    And its good to know that ALL of the leaders from the various parties support this initiative also.

    Sorry, naysayers, but the expansion is coming, whether you like it or not!

    It’s high time for the BVI to regain its “lunch”!!

  27. djs says:

    Quick fix– staff the entry zone with more rude power hungry inspectors.
    That for sure will bring more people.

  28. F70 Owner says:

    Hello from the UK

    So how about a 3 times weekly service to MIA or FLL?

    Trouble is, return fares will be circa $800 USD, flight time 3 hrs – NO need to extend runway!

    We would then also seek to codeshare with the airlines of the major tourism markets but it could happen in 19 if the Islanders and region would support it?

    Fokker 70 Jet / 80 seats European spec – all leather

  29. Hmmmm says:

    All Share Holders in this deal need to be highlighted. We do not want this kind of nonsense again.

  30. F70 Owner says:

    But I wouldn’t ask for a penny from anyone…. the risk is with the airline – ie – me as aircraft owner…. the question was whether or not you want the service and would use it…….

    I’m not asking for shareholders opinion as it’s not required or has any risk other than to me! !

  31. Waste says:

    Soooo, where are these planes going to refuel? Sure not going to pay BVI prices for fuel, so they’ll need to go to SJU or SXM. Defeating the purpose. The Chinese will get the contract, do a crap job, take the money OUT of the BVI economy, import their own labor and equipment and end up owning a lot of land when BVI can’t pay for white elephant airport. Wake up people, they are doing this in many African and Caribbean countries. The new master of this plantation is going to be Chinese. Get use to it.

  32. F70 Owner says:

    @waste

    Sorry that’s not how aviation works, we hedge and buy fuel at a fixed price a year in advance, based on the schedule and utilisation – we do this through global fuel providers, to remove fluctuations and uncertainty – it makes no difference as to what the local price is as that’s not what we’re paying – I’m currently paying $800 a ton no matter where I am in the world!

    • Genius says:

      Sooooo,where’s the fuel depot in BVI? These big jets carry more than your little pos could burn in a month. So it’s off to SJU because BVI can’t fix a price on anything. Just look at the power plant fuel supply issues.

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