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Govt pumps $7M in subsidies into BVI Airways

-Premier Dr The Hon D. Orlando Smith said Government would recoup monies through revenue sharing agreement
Government today January 12, 2016 announced direct flights to and from Miami, Florida, USA, through a joint venture between the Government of the VI and BVI Airways which will see some $7 million of taxpayer dollars pumped into it as part of a three-year agreement. Making the announcement at a press launch in the offices of BVI Finance was Premier and Minister of Finance Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith. Photo: VINO
BVI Airways Director Scott A. Weisman. Photo: VINO
BVI Airways Director Scott A. Weisman. Photo: VINO
BVI Airways Director Bruce Bruce F. Bradley. Photo: VINO
BVI Airways Director Bruce Bruce F. Bradley. Photo: VINO
An example of the Avro type plane, a British made aircraft, which the BVI Airways will reportedly be using at the TB Lettsome International Airport. Photo: Internet Source
An example of the Avro type plane, a British made aircraft, which the BVI Airways will reportedly be using at the TB Lettsome International Airport. Photo: Internet Source
Part of the gathering at the launch of the partnership today January 12, 2016. Photo: VINO
Part of the gathering at the launch of the partnership today January 12, 2016. Photo: VINO
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – Just as first and accurately reported by this news site, Government today January 12, 2016 announced direct flights to and from Miami, Florida, USA, through a joint venture between the Government of the VI and BVI Airways which will see some $7 million of taxpayer dollars pumped into it as part of a three-year agreement.

Making the announcement at a press launch in the offices of BVI Finance in Road Town, Tortola, Virgin Islands was Premier and Minister of Finance Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith.

He said the service would provide direct flights between Beef Island and Miami starting in the fall of 2016.

According to the Premier, the VI Government as the sole local shareholder is investing a sum of $7 million, which Government hopes to recoup.

“Our investment in this venture will be $7M over a three year period with the expectation that this will be recouped once the venture is successful, as we fully expect it to be,” he said, saying, however, there are no guarantees that the 80 plus seating aircraft will be full on all flights.

“It is an investment being made with the clear understanding that without relatively easy and reliable air access to and from the British Virgin Islands now, we will struggle to provide for the travelling needs of our people, to bring our visitors to the territory and to remain competitive in the main economic sectors of tourism and financial services,” he said.

He added that even though there is no guarantee, the money is to get the investment up and running and will be recouped through the revenue sharing arrangement between government and the airline.

Increasing passengers- increasing woes

It was noted that a majority of visitors from Miami are finding it increasingly difficult to get here due to the inadequacy of air access, largely precipitated by the departure of American Eagle from its hub in Puerto Rico.

“This is compounded by the inadequate length of the runway at the T.B. Lettsome International Airport. We know what the result has been: a severe reduction in flights into the BVI, increasing difficulty in accessing and leaving the BVI - both for ourselves and our visitors - and high ticket prices,” he pointed out.

According to the Premier, early in 2015 he pledged to the people of this territory that within his tenure, in the next electoral cycle, his government would solve the problem of air access to and from the Virgin Islands.

“Today, it is my special pleasure to announce that we have made good on that promise of direct flights to and from the United States mainland, by partnering with BVI Airways to have direct flights between the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport and the Miami International Airport,” announced Premier Smith.

“Direct flights between Miami and the BVI will commence in the Fall of this year. The Fall may sound a long way away, but as our partners will explain shortly there is a lot of preparation required to get those planes to fly full to and from Miami,” he said.

Lack of air access means loss of tourism dollars

The Premier said that for some time now, even before the cessation of American Eagle flights to the VI, the territory has struggled with air accessibility issues. “Visitors to our shores are spending more time to get here, often having to overnight in places in which they have no interest and at times arriving without luggage which is, for them, most frustrating.

Needless to say, this is an unnecessary loss of revenue to the BVI economy and a recipe for disaster in our tourism industry,” he said.

He noted that it should concern persons that the VI’s competitors have much better air access, with direct flights to and from major international destinations. “And it certainly does not help that that sleeping giant, Cuba, has awakened from its long slumber!”

The Premier said that since the cessation of flights by American Eagle to the VI, the territory’s air access problems have gotten worse. “The time lost and inconvenience faced by having to take ferries or smaller feeder flights to get to the BVI have caused many visitors to choose other destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America, thereby undermining our competitiveness,” he said.

Investment to fuel high-end tourism - Bruce F. Bradley

One of the investors and Directors of BVI Airways, Bruce F. Bradley, said the airline which will be up and running in another nine months will offer something much better than what is available today.

“We are very excited to offer competitive, convenient and luxurious alternative to what is there today. We think this will help enormously in fuelling high end tourism as we have seen with many of the neighbouring Governments that have made big investment in airlift and the impact it has had in a very short space of time,” he said.

Things seem to take long here

Another of the Directors, Scott A. Weisman said the investment is a big step. “When we first made our investment in BVI Airways about a year and a half ago this was always part of the idea…to leverage our turboprop business with our [jet] business to bring direct service into Beef Island,” he said.

“It has taken much longer, as things seem to take longer here, but in general we are delighted that we are finally here,” he said, showering the Premier and his Ministers and officers with thanks. He added that the regulatory approvals and marketing saw the process dragging on.

“Obviously we don’t want to fly airlines empty. We want to make sure the business is profitable; we want to return capital back to the Government. We want to make sure we have the ability to provide the best service possible for the most rational price,” said Weisman.

According to Weisman, the project required the investors getting approval from London and Washington and this process took time also.

Many of the ferry companies have long called on Government to subsidise their operations between the VI and the USVI, and are calling it unfair for taxpayers to underwrite a foreign airline and not do the same for local ferry operations.

We tried to reach locally owned VI Airlink to confirm whether they have received any Government subsidies, but these attempts were futile.

See our previous article here:

40 Responses to “Govt pumps $7M in subsidies into BVI Airways”

  • wize up (12/01/2016, 15:40) Like (8) Dislike (7) Reply
    great news; more airlift to the territory
  • resident (12/01/2016, 15:55) Like (8) Dislike (16) Reply
    This is an excellent move by the govt. Well needed.
    My only question is. What type of aircraft proposed for this route and the safety and maintenance records for same. But great initiative on bvo govt part
    • bb (12/01/2016, 16:41) Like (5) Dislike (3) Reply
      Its an Avro 146/RJ85 capable of landing and departing on our current rwy lenght.
      • Half the Story (12/01/2016, 16:59) Like (12) Dislike (6) Reply
        Tell the whole truth. It CAN take off and land, BUT not with full fuel, bags or passengers, and CANNOT fly to MIA with standard IFR reserves. Couple that with our year round 85+ degree temperature and those in the know are just shaking their heads.
      • dog (12/01/2016, 17:10) Like (8) Dislike (2) Reply
        current runway is the operative phrase. It can be done folks. We don't need huge passenger flights. That would be impractical in any case.
      • wize up (12/01/2016, 21:03) Like (5) Dislike (1) Reply
        @ bb; in the early 90s a 146 aircraft operated in the territory under BCA; same direct service to Miami from beef island
        • bb (12/01/2016, 23:26) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
          My point exactly
        • British Caribbean Airways (13/01/2016, 00:56) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
          @ wize up - YES! You are correct - it started in April and stopped flying in October, as they did not have enough business. That was in a time, when we had to go St Thomas, PR and Miami for almost any shopping. That plane type would be the best for us
          • Half the Story (13/01/2016, 15:53) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
            Tell the whole story. The 146 that BCA used was the model prior to the RJ85. And that plane stopped in TCI enroute to Miami. Against I say- the RJ85 cannot do that flight, profitably, besides it being grossly inefficient. You and the Govt telling half these story.
            • Boo (13/01/2016, 16:23) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
              Yes Rj85 is horribly inefficient. Price per seat will be high. There will have to be a refuelling stop
        • Boo (13/01/2016, 16:21) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
          Wasn't there a stop in Cayman for refueling on that route
  • just asking... (12/01/2016, 15:57) Like (5) Dislike (3) Reply
    What about the monies owe to the bviaa?
    • wize up (13/01/2016, 06:47) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      @ just asking; what money, we will just sweep that under the rug, what is a few dollars among friends.... had it been my black @$& I would have been prosecuted to the full extent of the law(just saying)...
  • ccc (12/01/2016, 16:02) Like (27) Dislike (6) Reply
    No money for toilet paper at schools but they can waste 7 million in the w man pockets i am shame today after voting for the ndp
  • chad (12/01/2016, 16:28) Like (23) Dislike (3) Reply
    Another load of bull. You can not pay the band members and other vendors but you can find 7 million for bull crap. Pay my people first!
  • i from here (12/01/2016, 16:31) Like (5) Dislike (21) Reply
    Well we done know VIP people will dislike any comment that says this was a great move!
    • dog (12/01/2016, 17:12) Like (15) Dislike (1) Reply
      has nothing to do with VIP but logic and management. What about the ferries? They bring in more than the flights.
      Even if that changes, ferries are crucial to the BVI the way air could never be.
    • Tram (12/01/2016, 23:20) Like (4) Dislike (2) Reply
      Exactly! It is an excellent move, but small minds cannot see it yet. It will take time for them to appreciate what this means.
  • BuzzBvi (12/01/2016, 16:34) Like (12) Dislike (4) Reply
    Great idea. Hope it has the best of success.

    Kind of knocks a hole in the reason for needing a longer runway at $400,000,000 dollars.

    Be interesting to see what the money saved by taxing people with the new NHI tax will now be spent on as we can now ditch the runway project.

    • dog (12/01/2016, 17:14) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
      exactly. The compromise is better air service, not bigger runway which will cost too much and do nothing during slow times.
    • voiceofthevoiceless (12/01/2016, 18:13) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
      You keep repeating that theory that funds from the NHI will be used towards the airport expansion but that does not make economic sense. Government will pay more in health care with the NHI due to the increase in liability as a result of the increase in claims. Remember that they now have to look after persons with pre-existing conditions who were previously covered by private insurance but now are registered under the NHI. I seriously question the sustainability of the NHI.

      Again the better option would have been to focus on the uninsured then charge a health tax for the already insured. Leave them with their insurance.
      • BuzzBvi (12/01/2016, 20:30) Like (7) Dislike (1) Reply
        I agree with what you are saying. Before NHI $46Million a year was spent on health care in the BVI by the Government. Are you saying that they will still spend this $46Million plus what is raised by 7 % from every earning person in the BVI?
        Do you know what 7% of everyone earning in the BVI is?
        I believe the intention is to have NHI pay for health, keep the $46Million saved and spend it on an airport that is has now been shown we do not need to get the direct flights they said it was needed for.
        They will now invent another reason.
  • tretretrete (12/01/2016, 17:27) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
    picture dem boy flying these things to the caribbean it would give LIAT a run for them money. faster and hold more i can get to my home land in no time yourl expand u hear
  • voiceofreason (12/01/2016, 18:17) Like (10) Dislike (1) Reply
    At least this idea is way more acceptable than a airport expansion that will cost in the region of $300- $ 400 million dollars. I was always for working with the runway we have but just maximizing our air accessibility options. Far more economically viable option and it would not leave us in debt for the next 100 years.

    However I seriously question why a local company like VI Air Link could not have been considered. Why not make that investment in a local airline for them to get some bigger planes to do that EIS-MIA run.
  • Waiting (12/01/2016, 18:49) Like (9) Dislike (1) Reply
    The ferries need more help. THIS is where we are cutting our tourism throat. Note it said the word luxury which does not translate into affordable.
  • RITO (12/01/2016, 19:13) Like (3) Dislike (1) Reply
    They need to start wit San Juan. If they put four fligths per day out of San Juan at a reasonable flight they will make more money. a lot of people are taking Jet Blue to Sanjuan out of ST Thomas.
  • dog man (12/01/2016, 19:28) Like (1) Dislike (4) Reply
    So y a we pumping money into bvi airways. How much do the Gov. pump into VI LinKs. We must stop It !!!!!!!!!!!! The runway need to B Longer so y not pump the money into that first them a airline
    after. Dr. u need too come better. It have order airlines with intrest we didnot take them how come now with this airline ???????? Come on Dr.!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • pay musicians u evil men (12/01/2016, 20:12) Like (3) Dislike (1) Reply
    Wow. Wow. Wow. Musicians still can't get pay.
  • What? (12/01/2016, 20:16) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    I forget this plane exist. I couldn't get a flight out of the BVI for Christmas. Maybe what the government should have done is take over their marketing.. Like I say I forgot this plane exist.
  • got to got (12/01/2016, 21:31) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
    Subsidies again. Tax payers money and still won't raise minimum wages. Thing to tell the king. The Anegada barge sunk some month ago. The ferries are loaded with cargo as if they are barges. That 7million dollars that are going into bvi air ways for subsidy need to be cut. Let's give a cool million dollars to the folks in Anegada who own the barge so they can keep anegada
  • Charley Rose (12/01/2016, 21:50) Like (2) Dislike (1) Reply
    Good luck Hon. Premier. Let us hope that the airline will be a success. On the other hand if it does not, the people will live with Miss Parson albatross. Was any feasibility study done to ensure that we have a successful venture? What will be the cost of tickets? Would it be cheaper than flying through St. Thomas? Let us know the answers to these questions
    Let us hope that the ministers, relatives and supporters of the NDP do not abuse the airline or else we will have to pay for their abuse.
  • ... (12/01/2016, 22:26) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    For a country that is so broke and can't pay their bills; where do Govt. find this kind of money to go invest in this airline?
  • tretretrete (12/01/2016, 23:06) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
    schools are low on supplies, government departments are crying, contractors cant get pay. there are many children going to school hungry and it hurts me that every time you read the news these guys either spending millions or borrowing. why is no one taking leadership on price control?
  • keep it real (13/01/2016, 01:10) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Another sad day for the tax dollars to support white expat business venture
  • bronson (13/01/2016, 01:16) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
    "if a billionaire wants to become a millionaire quick, let him invest in an airline"
  • affected (13/01/2016, 03:13) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
    When we lookat the way NDP is behaving must we ask ;Do these guys have ANY respect for the ppl of the BVI. They are About their own agenda. Dissapointed is a"good" way to say we are with Dr Smith and his gang , and to see the big head one from Duffs Bottom still raping the country. Doc we are NOT on "ANIMAL FARM" in this BVI no pig should be more equal REMEMBER we are the ones whomput you there Please dont be a NAPOLEON
  • concern (13/01/2016, 07:00) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Will blacks be allowed? What will be the fare for locals seeing our money is being used. Do any local politician or families have shares? 7 mil in airline, how much in NHI? Explain who will be eligible to travel on that plane. Will this go under like Air BVI or will a profit be made?
  • that is the best of the NDP (13/01/2016, 07:21) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    Helping out outsiders while our local boyz suck salt.

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