Businessmen say bajan airline won't work

A major investor in the failed Barbados-based airline REDjet has come out strongly against the idea of any new local private sector-led airline, saying such a venture would be “madness”.

But prominent businessman Ralph ‘Bizzy’ Williams also told Barbados TODAY he did not see a government-led airline being successful either, given government’s track record with various business ventures.

His comments were in response to reports that a proposal was recently put forward for Barbados to set up its own airline, with 10 planes and up to 350 permanent staff.

The venture was proposed to replace cash-strapped LIAT, in which the Government of Barbados is the principal shareholder.The document, which reportedly originated from LIAT, pushes for the establishment of a Barbadian carrier not burdened by LIAT’s financial and other baggage.

It said such a move would represent a “fresh start” as opposed to waiting for the “slow, painful and costly collapse” of LIAT – the only two options the proposal envisions.The document proposes a Barbados Air Carrier (Newco) be established with its own Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) and route licensing authorization, effectively replacing the majority of existing LIAT services throughout the region and seeking to develop new markets.

Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne has described the move as “treason” and an act of hostility against his country which is the home base of LIAT whose staff is about half Antiguan.

In his assessment, Williams said it would only make sense setting up an airline in Barbados when there is “proper legislation in place” governing the fare structure.

The Barbadian business mogul said he could not imagine any individual or group of people to “be so absolutely crazy to invest one cent in a private sector airline to fly between the Caribbean islands” with the current legislation.

Founder and chairman of Williams Industries Inc. Ralph ‘Bizzy’ Williams
Ralph ‘Bizzy’ Williams

“With the existing fare structure, where an airline can change its fares willy-nilly up and down (and) is funded by taxpayers’ money, then you cannot compete with that with a private business, and government is not able to run efficient business,” Williams said.

He added: “We have seen it. Look at any government institution and see if it is profitable. They are very few if any at all.”

“No private sector airline will ever start up in the Caribbean and be run successfully until it is mandatory by the Civil Aviation [Department] for every airline operating in the Caribbean to declare its fare structure a year in advance for every month.“

So, in January, you would declare your fare structure through to December 31 and you cannot change it up or down except by a formula relating to the price of fuel,” explained Williams.

Williams said there was no way a private sector-led airline would be able to compete with “a government/taxpayer funded airline which can adjust its fares drastically to put a new start-up airline out of business even before it gets off the ground”.

“We have seen this happened three times now. It happened with the first efforts here in Barbados, the one that started in Antigua and it happened with REDjet. As soon as the new private sector [airline] comes on stream, the taxpayer funded airline . . . drops its fares to put the new private sector company out of business, and then raises its fares immediately after to higher than it was before. As long as that can happen, then you would have to be mad to invest money in a private airline,” said Williams.

In relation to LIAT relocating its operations to Barbados from Antigua, Williams said that was a move he welcomed but hoped that “the civil aviation authorities here will be more cooperative and switched on than they were toward REDjet”.

Approximately two years after it started operations in 2010, REDjet was forced to go out of business, putting about 90 people out of a job.When asked if he was prepared to invest in another airline in Barbados, Williams said “Definitely not. Not one cent of Williams Industries money will be going back in an aviation venture unless the regulations are changed”.

Meanwhile, another local businessman, Robert Pitcher, told Barbados TODAY it did not make sense setting up a new airline that would compete with LIAT.

Fun ’N’ Sun Publishing owner Robert Pitcher.
Local businessman Robert Pitcher

“For Barbados to start its own airline, it would be at the expense [of taxpayers]. The Caribbean [route] that LIAT currently serves cannot take two airlines flying it. Both of them would lose money,” he said.

Pitcher, who previously predicted the demise of LIAT if the management structure was not quickly changed, said that having a competing airline could also mean that LIAT would “eventually die”.

Stressing that the current structure of LIAT was “wrong”, Pitcher suggested that the government of each island served by the regional carrier, should “proportionately put money” into its operations, “but not until the board is changed and management understands where we have to go”.

12 Responses to BAD MOVE

  1. Ezekiel Baker
    Ezekiel Baker April 2, 2015 at 2:11 am

    If Barbados go a head with this madness of settings up her own airline company it would doom to fail before it star, true arrant. Barbados has isolated herself from her Caribbean neighbours, Barbados would not have the support of her neighbouring islanders , they would not give landing rights. Barbados has to built and renew good relations before even think of investing in such a idea.

  2. Annette Mcclean
    Annette Mcclean April 2, 2015 at 4:21 am

    Barbados government failed to negotiate a lucrative deal with AmericanAirlines who had an established route with Barbados, now they want to start their own airlines. So now we can do what all others failed at doing. Where is the money for this coming from anyway. I suggest governing 101, don’t bite off more than you can chew!

  3. Adrian Loveridge April 2, 2015 at 5:16 am

    May I suggest a name for the new airline – GEMS Airways and I wonder which Government crony could build up the biggest debt in the shortest time?

  4. Alex Alleyne April 2, 2015 at 7:18 am

    The focus should be on “bringing LIAT back to BIM” .Or , May be just “scrap LIAT” and put the money into Caribbean Air ways seeing that in time to come it going be TT&B .

  5. Christopher Robinson April 2, 2015 at 10:17 am

    cadogan, the private sector has many success stories besides the three failures you singled out. Single out ONE Government business enterprise success story you dolt.

  6. gregg April 2, 2015 at 11:49 am

    Why strategically kill Redjet then to start another…. ??? stupse…

  7. carson c cadogan April 2, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Just asking. Whatever happen to the debt owed to the people in Barbados including those who bought tickets just days before Red jet collapsed?

    I have not heard the News media in Barbados asking any questions on this matter.

  8. Robert April 2, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    They kill off Redjet for Liat and now this talk coming up, bull shit. Politics and caricom islands kill off a good thing fare wise. I was on the first Redjed flight to Guyana and others and was very pleased with the service, unlike Liat. Time to go Liat

  9. James Lynch April 2, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    Even aviation professionals say it can’t work. An AOC in three months? Never happen, even in a proper country where there are all the necessary technical staff, Inspectors and oversight, and are on the ball – this bunch of circus clowns in the Civil Aviation Department can’t even fall out of the tiny car properly.

    And after Fumble is finished stabbing everybody else around us in the back, who is going to give this Barbados airline landing rights in their country? Wair, wunnuh really living in dis Caribbean reality doah?

    But Fumble doesn’t listen to anybody, and there will be some enthusiastic yard fowls who wants to be big shots in yet another Barbados Government boondoggle to waste even more taxpayer money – maybe they will empty the NIS completely for this one.

    Whuh yuh say? Four years in power and all dem gots fuh do is fool dese igrunt Bajan public again before elections? Wunnuh go ahead, hear!?!

  10. islandflyer April 2, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    Mr. Cadogan: By Carib West, I presume you really mean Carib Express? In that case, two of the factors were (1) the blocking of expansion into the northern Caribbean by ANU/SKB, when the latter changed Government, and blocked in the Central/Southern Caribbean by the likes of LIAT/BWee Express/EC Xpress, and (2) the last minute swap of economical turboprop planes with the BAE146 jets, which ate money like no tomorrow (ok, that was a private sector mess up) ….. Bajan Helicopters? I understand a large part of that collapse was the outstanding monies owed by Government agencies to the operation, plus the 1000% raise in rent for the Bridgetown Heliport (which still lies idle to this day, but THAT is another story)…. and REDJet is well documented, so I’ll just keep quiet now.

  11. ANU1 April 3, 2015 at 5:38 am

    Leave LIAT in Antigua the home of her birth.
    Plain and simple LIAT is fat and top heavy….
    Saddled with far too many employees ( encouraged by their unions ), saying ” that’s not my job…” what happen to multitasking?
    Cut the fat, let LIAT breath, it can work if allowed to run as a business.

  12. Adrian Loveridge April 3, 2015 at 6:53 am

    Of course Carson forgot to mention the near $1 million of taxpayers monies (TIRF) the hotel he worked at got. Was it ever repaid?


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