BWIA West Indies Airways is hoping to return to profit by the end of this financial year after the post-11 September downturn ended its three-year profit run. The carrier also hopes it can expand its regional alliances to other carriers in the region, particularly Air Jamaica, once it proves the success of its partnership with Liat.

The Port of Spain, Trinidad-based carrier was on course for a $9 million profit in 2001 until its North American traffic plummeted after 11 September, says president and chief executive Conrad Aleong. BWIA reported a $694,000 net loss and a $2.6 million operating loss on revenues of just under $270 million in 2001.

Aleong, who has spearheaded a turnaround at the carrier over the past four years, is confident BWIA will "eke out" a profit for 2002 following a cost-reduction strategy implemented after 11 September. BWIA cut flights by 10%, reduced staff by 5%, trimmed travel agents' commission and froze salaries until the end of this year, says Aleong.

Traffic continues to be 5-7% down on pre-11 September levels and the market remains volatile, he says.

Meanwhile, BWIA has introduced a newly delivered A340 on transatlantic services and continues to work with fellow Caribbean carrier Antigua-based Liat, of which BWIA owns 29%, on integrating their activities. The partners have combined schedules, introduced through fares and codeshares, and merged their commercial departments. Further integration is planned, including airport management and procurement, says Aleong. He says BWIA does not plan to raise its stake in Liat and a combined brand "might happen one day".

Aleong hopes that once carriers in the region see the BWIA-Liat co-operation being successful they will be more open to working together. Carriers in the Caribbean have traditionally been suspicious of any attempts to co-operate. "We would love to sit down with Air Jamaica and work with them on co-operation," says Aleong.

Source: Flight International