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No progress on air travel

I just received and read the Editorial in the on-line version, and as someone who has been in or around Caribbean aviation since about 1969 I would like to warn against rushing into amalgamating regional aviation.

Of course that statement comes from a complicated and long history, but the simple reason is that the natural selection for a regional airline leader is Trinidad, and Trinidad have shown clearly and repeatedly that they are neither competent nor to be trusted. They will also do only whatever is good for Trinidad and leave the rest of us hanging in the wind.

Let me remind you that Ansa McAl came to Barbados and bought BS&T. They then set about dismantling anything in the group of companies which competed with Trinidadian business and exports, to the detriment of Barbados’ self-sustainability.

Patrick Manning decided that his counterpart heads of government were moving too slowly, so unilaterally he made his own decision to change BWIA into Caribbean Airlines and take over the other regional airlines. As the easiest (and closest) takeover LIAT was target number one, but the privatisation process of Air Jamaica ran that plan off the rails. Then

Manning beckoned Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding to a meeting, and no doubt some arms were twisted because the privatisation process was almost immediately discarded, leading contender Spirit Airlines dismissed, and CAL had Air Jamaica.

CAL dismantled the airline, cherry-picked the most profitable routes. Trinidadian managers ran the entire operation into the ground, then blamed Jamaicans for the losses.

On the Caribbean Regional Aviation Network I detailed a proposal for regional air transport, and at the same time as I first placed it there I also faxed it to as many prime ministers as I could get fax numbers for — this was before BWIA was changed to Caribbean Airlines.

The proposal was to create a central regional authority to which all the existing airlines would be franchisees. The authority would handle all large common purchases and administer training, standards, schedules, advertising and all overall control. Each airline would be required to convert to identical livery, paperwork, documentation, manuals and uniforms. Each airline could continue to operate its own brand, but would not be allowed to use the franchised equipment to do so.

Because the livery and uniforms would be identical, spare aircraft from one franchise could be temporarily repositioned to provide additional seats to a franchise elsewhere which needed help — such as for festivals or events — as a seamless addition.

The central regional authority would be centrally placed (not in Trinidad, where regional organisations/ headquarters seem to implode and die) and would employ managers and technicians from all of the islands.

This proposal never saw any discussion as far as I know, yet it would solve the many problems faced in starting a regional airline… each existing airline would retain local management, staff and operating control as long as they performed the requisite schedules. They would save on large consumable purchases, share ticket stock and every other common purchase, and their local needs would continue to be considered — something I do not believe would exist if a single carrier elsewhere controlled everything.

Under such a suggestion I think Cayman Airways and BahamasAir may be interested — at the moment I am sure they are looking at the Air Jamaica experience and shaking their heads.

Also in aviation, I see Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy spending big bucks on tourism, but the Civil Aviation Department is still left out in the rain as an orphan (still with a career air traffic controller as the director) and no attempt is being made to get Barbados Category One status and back

into the aviation race. The DGCA in Jamaica just resigned to go to Curacao as a consultant to get their Category One status back.

I find it incomprehensible that hundreds of millions of scarce dollars will be spent getting tourists to Barbados, but the system which oversees their safe arrival and departure is rotting from neglect.

Who I am: I was an air traffic controller in Barbados for two years, was a charter pilot for TropicAir and Carib Aviation, and flew for Air BVI for a year. Then I flew for LIAT for 16 years (and was secretary of LIALPA for eight years).

I have lived in Canada since 1996 and was the webmaster for Caribbean-ALPA for several years until that went bust, and have been operating and updating the Caribbean Regional Aviation Network ever since. I am now an aviation consultant working with two substantial start-up airlines as well as helping someone start a third small airline and yet another to start a maintenance organisation and a service company.

— Captain Jim Lynch

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