Virgin Islands Airways, and a song of NEW YORK

| June 30, 2012

Contributing Author Dickson Igwe

A series of articles look at the idea of a regional and international air carrier for the British Virgin Islands, and links with the USA Eastern Seaboard

This Pilgrim has been attempting the incredible. In recent months he has tried to play the visionary. And maybe this is a good thing. Sometimes it pays to look through a prism of imagination and dreams into a very uncertain future. And the thought of these sunny Islands in the South Atlantic possessing a national cum international air carrier of world class has some thinking this ‘Igwe guy,’ must have a screw loose, or is simply nuts!

But this ‘ armchair aviator,’ will quote none other than a hero to many in these parts, SIR RICHARD BRANSON, who stated on Facebook recently, that, ‘’it is the one’s crazy enough to think they can change the world, who usually do.’’ Yes folk, do not allow the limitations of the past determine the future of these Antilles.

Or as one Honorable VI Senator stated some time ago, on his rendition on a future VI economy run on renewable energy, ‘’this is a time to think outside the box!’’ Yes folk, and in the box thinking is a limiting, even debilitating paradigm indeed: and a sure way of getting left behind, in a new world that demands bold ideas and bold solutions for these islands in the sun!

Now one thing is clear from this ‘Adventurers’ inquiries into this matter, of the whether or not of a BVI Airways: the people of these Antilles are very skeptical, and even weary, over whether the country possesses the type of collaborative culture to pull this thing off. One Public Officer asserted to this Enthusiast recently that the culture in the BVI is individualistic, that collaboration is a bad word to many in this country: and he was probably right.

So, for most residents, the concept of a new international air carrier controlled and managed from Terrance B Lettsome International, with offices in Road Town, San Juan, Miami, Atlanta, and New York, is simply unattainable. This probably comes from sad experience of the past, when a previous attempt at an airline, although quite successful to begin with, eventually hit the buffers. But this skepticism must not be allowed to destroy the future.

Busy JFK Airport. Photo courtesy

Economic growth in these Antilles demands radical, robust, and futuristic thinking. And the idea of a regional, even international air carrier, based and managed in the BVI is certainly futuristic, for now, in any case, but very realizable.

Now, a new animal of the skies birthed in the BVI will have to be a hybrid of sorts: a flexible, adaptable, collaborative, nimble, and dynamic beast.  A safe, secure, and highly efficient business, and a technology savvy airline at that, owned and managed by persons fully committed to excellence and service. It will probably be made up of a number of components: this ‘aviator,’ will name 5 of these.

It will have to be protected in the short, medium, and long term, by legislation, and an overtly political and national type bipartisanship, especially when it comes to the strategic operation of the airline. Both of the major political parties will have to work together on this ’baby.’ A new airline business must be a vehicle that not only welcomes the international investor, but which gives assurances of being a safe, effectively managed, and profitable crucible in which to invest.

The business must also welcome the local investor, and allow all stakeholders, from the local villa owner and hotelier, to the international resort manager and yachting entrepreneur, even the passenger and customer service representative, and Joe Average, a say in its operations.

Remember an Air BVI becomes a contract carrier between the resort, hotel, yachting, and small villa owner and manager, and their guests all over the world. It will be an airline earning revenues, not just from the international traveler, but from the leisure, and hotel industry in the Caribbean.

These are customers and clients paying the airline, and supporting it financially, contributing to its viability, as part of their own bottom lines, and package deals to their guests.  Visitors to Xanadu, paying for an all inclusive trip: a travel excursion that includes the airline fare, a la carte services, and accommodations, all rolled into one, and built into an all inclusive vacation experience.

This is a new rendition of the brochure and packaged holiday experience, with the BVI advertised as a package destination in travel and similar agencies all over the world.

The new airline will have to further collaborate with residents and locals who are pilots, and business people, who owned airline businesses and facilities in the past. This will take the form of offering profitable franchises, to all out employment of Virgin Islanders, and offering further investment opportunity, for residents and citizens, with the requisite resources, skill, and knowledge to run an airline. 

A new air carrier will benefit from new synergies in regional travel highlighted in a recent article of October 6, 2011, in the BVI Beacon.  The story by Investigative Reporter, Jason Smith, ‘’ OFFICIALS DISCUSS INTEGRATING THE CARIBBEAN’S AIRSPACE,’’ was about officialdom in Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad, politicians and technocrats who have determined that well coordinated regional airline hubs, ‘’ could increase options for travelers and boost tourism,’’ in the Caribbean.

The short news piece showed a growing awareness that the future of Caribbean tourism lay in the region’s ability to utilize the global airline network to its benefit by increasing the number of regional hubs and networking these very effectively.

Reporter Smith further alluded to Michael Henry, Jamaica’s Minister for Transportation and Works, who spoke of, ‘’ a more structured open skies policy, and more regional travel hubs.’’ This could be a great opportunity for a British Virgin Islands with a new airport infrastructure and a robust national air carrier, servicing this new proposed regional airlift dynamic.

Further afield on the USA Eastern Seaboard, New York’s Mayor, one of the wealthiest men on the planet, Michael Bloomberg, in a radio address of April 15, 2012, described New York’s aviation industry, a major employer and a critical infrastructure of airports, international air travel, and airline facilities.

John F Kennedy- JFK- sees over 50 million visitors using and transiting this gargantuan aviation facility annually. Bloomberg asserted that, ‘’ New York’s aviation industry was key to making things happen.

Now travelers to and from JFK are just a fraction of the total number of person’s using New York’s 3 major airports annually. Furthermore, the Mayor described how, ‘’ Jetblue and Delta Airlines made major investments that show just how confident they are,’’ in New York’s future. New York’s aviation metrics are impressive indeed.  The City has invested 1.4 billion dollars in airport improvement, and, ‘’ those investments have led to more jobs, and more economic activity.

Add to this that as Europe declines commercially, and Asia and the Pacific rises, facilities such as JFK become critical hubs linking the Asian traveler with the Caribbean.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Bloomberg continued with his rendition, further asserting that, ‘’ today, more than 68,000 people work at the three major airports, ‘’ twice the population of the BVI one might add, ‘’ and the number of passengers using the City’s aviation facilities has jumped from 81 million in 2002, to 105 million in 2011.  The three airports generated 65 billion dollars in economic activity in 2011.’’

This is an Easter Seaboard airlift dynamic that a new BVI air carrier could link with, and benefit from. By establishing a direct and regular flight route to and from a thriving New York, or connecting with global carriers docked at major air facilities in the BIG APPLE.

Terrance B Lettsome International thus becomes a West Indian regional airline platform, networking with a major population center: a possibility further supported by a new generation of smaller jets such as the A319, Brazilian Embraer, and the BAE 146, capable of flying medium to long distance, and landing on shorter runways.

Yes this could be an avant garde marketing strategy for a BVI Tourist Board, working closely with a national carrier, buttressed by a newly extended runway on Beef Island. A new dynamic that could capitalize on New York’s multibillion dollar airlift infrastructure, giving the new carrier and BVI tourism a platform and boost, and entry into a lucrative global airline industry and travel market.

Yes the songwriter had a point. And how does the song go again?

‘’Start spreading the news;

I am leaving today;

I want to be part of it;

New York, New York;

I want to wake up in the city that doesn’t sleep;

And find I’m king of the hill; top of the heap.’’

To be continued

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Category: British Virgin Islands News, Culture & Society, Politics

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We provide news and information for anyone interested in the Caribbean whether you’re UK based, European based or located in the Caribbean. New fresh ideas are always welcome with opportunities for bright writers.

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