BWIA International Airways has confirmed plans to launch a regional airline, with newly created "BWee Express" set to launch operations on 1 March operating two new Bombardier Dash 8-300s.

BWee Express will operate a regional network in the South and Eastern Caribbean, intially serving Grenada, Barbados, and St. Lucia. The fleet will be expanded in October with the arrival of a third Dash 8-300. Other points will be added to the network including St. Vincent, and South American destinations Caracas and Georgetown.

Setting up its own regional will put BWIA head to head with the Caribbean's incumbant regional airline, Antigua-based LIAT, in which BWIA holds a 29% stake. "We have tried to link with a commercial agreement and a merger - neither have worked," says BWIA's president Conrad Aleong, "we are now each on our own." Aleong adds that BWIA is still open to a link-up with LIAT, but concedes that its shareholding is for sale.

The creation of the new division marks the initiation of BWIA's three-year strategic restructuring programme, which is designed to ensure that the airline follows up its move into the black last year with sustained profitability (Flight International 3-9 February).

Other items on the restructuring agenda include fund raising, an order for Boeing 737-800s or Airbus A320s to replace its Boeing MD-80s, and a reorganisation into dedicated business units.

Source: Flight International