Air Transport World

Caribbean conversion. (privatization of BWIA International Airline)

BWIA's privatization process brings the airline into the 1990s; seeks to rationalize the region's air-transportation system

PORT-OF-SPAIN--The transition of BWIA International Airways from government-owned to privatized airline bears watching as its new owners attempt to turn a respectable but unprofitable carrier into a regional power.

If successful, a transformed BWIA will lead a realignment of Caribbean air services, pulling together many overlapping but separate feeder operations into a coherent system while drawing more international traffic into the region.

The underpinnings for success seemed to be in place from the start. BWIA is an experienced international carrier with interesting route rights and a good service reputation, based in a region exceedingly attractive to both business and tourist traffic. Although commercially throttled by government ownership and management, it had operated in complete safety for 56 years.

The question the new investors liked to ponder is what would happen if BWIA was freed from its government shackles, introduced to all of the accouterments and efficiencies that enhance a modern carrier's profits and set forth to dominate its extremely attractive market.

The early answer seems to be quite positive, with a profit expected for 1995 even through many elements of the transition still are being assembled.

Here's a quick summation of what the new BWIA management has been up to:

* Fleet replacement under way.

* BWIA Express Caribbean feeder network being assembled, shares in some feeders purchased or in negotiation.

* Code-sharing agreements signed with significant carriers in North America--American--and Europe--Virgin and British Midland.

* Cargo operations enhanced; first freighter purchased.

* Joined first major CRS---Sabre.

* Launched BWIA-brand frequent-flier program.

* Started opening series of routes to large South American cities. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.