We don’t want to fly empty planes - BVI Airways
The management of BVI Airways has disclosed that it will embark on a major marketing campaign to avoid the likelihood of flying empty planes, adding that its fares must be cheaper than what exists, but it intends to work the ‘tough’ airline business to ensure Government gets a return on the $7 million it is investing in the carrier over the next three years.
The airline, which said it is owned by a merchant bank based in the United States, is planning to operate a 80-seat Regional RJ85 with ‘a very very nice high end first class section and nice leather-covered seats’ between the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the United States within the next nine months.
BVI Airways Director Scott Weisman yesterday also noted the importance of keeping the cost of airline tickets lower than persons would pay on connecting flights between the BVI and Miami.
“Obviously, we don’t want to fly airplanes empty. Obviously we want to make sure the airline is profitable – we want to return capital back to the government. We want to ensure that we have the ability to provide the best service possible for the most rational price.”
“Some people have asked: Is this going to be cheaper than what’s available now? The answer is yes; it has to be,” he further said.
Weisman also expressed confidence that the demand for the aircraft will grow over time.
“The thought process is: we are starting with at least three flights on a weekly basis [between the BVI and Miami]. But as demand builds – which we are highly confident it will, we expect it to go to one flight a day, and in the high season probably two to three flights a day.”
“We think that having direct service on a very luxurious plane with a first class cabin and with a [inaudible] meal will transform the travel experience,” Weisman added.
Caribbean not left out
While emphasizing the direct route between the BVI and Miami, BVI Airways yesterday reiterated that other Caribbean countries will also be targeted, but it did not give details.
Jerry Willoughby, a longtime aviation industry executive who is now President and Chief Executive Officer at BVI Airways, said the airline will also forge links with international partners to make travel more comfortable.
“I actually live on the West Coast [in the United States]. So, it takes me two days to get here [in the BVI]. We will change that, where people from the West Coast will be able to get here in one day.”
“We will time our departures out of Miami so that we get the flow not only from the north-east but from the West Coast – Los Angeles, California, San Francisco and even Seattle – to connect into our flights. So, the afternoon flight coming out of the US mainland arriving here [in the BVI], and then morning flights out of here connecting to destinations not only in the US mainland but other parts of the Caribbean, Central [and] South America and even onto Europe,” added Willoughby.
“We will work very carefully with some of our international partners to have seamless interline agreements so that your bags can be checked through – it will be less hassle than you have had before.”
In the meantime, another representative of the airline, Bruce Bradley, has noted that the type of agreement signed between BVI Airways and the BVI government is not unique in the airline industry.
According to him, such formula has worked well for some other countries in the region. He did not specify.
“We think this [agreement] will help enormously… We have seen this with many of the other neighbouring governments that have made a big investment in airlift and the impact that it has had in a very short period of time,” added Bradley.