Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Zurich are in the running as Trinidad-based carrier seeks to add European destinations

BWIA West Indies Airways is considering three European destinations to expand its international network after delivery this month of the first of two Airbus A340-300s.

The Trinidad-based carrier serves one European destination - London Heathrow - but will add twice-weekly connections to a second UK point, Manchester, from its Port of Spain base and Barbados on 13 July. The airline is looking at Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Zurich, says president and chief executive Conrad Aleong, with one of these destinations to be served from spring 2003.

BWIA also hopes to expand its North American network next year, once Trinidad & Tobago returns to Category 1 status under the US Federal Aviation Administration's International Aviation Safety Assessment programme. Trinidad & Tobago was downgraded to Category 2 last year, preventing BWIA from expanding its US network, which comprises Miami, New York Kennedy and Washington Dulles, as planned, and exploiting a codeshare alliance with United Airlines.

A political deadlock in the country which has resulted in there being no parliament has prevented it from complying with US safety standards due to its lack of approved aviation regulations. Aleong hopes there will be improvement by November, which will allow BWIA to add three-times weekly connections to Atlanta and Boston in winter 2003. "The Category 2 situation is frustrating as we have the capacity to fly to Atlanta three times a week," he says.

Meanwhile, the delivery on 16 June of the ex-Air Canada A340-300, leased from International Lease Finance for five years, completes the airline's fleet-renewal programme. The A340 was introduced on the London service this week, replacing an ageing Lockheed L-1011 TriStar which will now serve Manchester until the second A340 arrives in November.

Aleong says BWIA, which lacks 180min extended range twin-engined operations approval, chose the A340 over the A330-200 and Boeing 767-300ER twinjets as it was "the only one to fit our size, range and four-engine requirements".

BWIA's fleet renewal - the 15th objective of a 19-point plan initiated by Aleong after he joined in 1998 - has included adding six Boeing 737-800s. One of two remaining Boeing MD-83s will be returned to lessor GE Capital Aviation Services and replaced by a 737-700 in December. Aleong hopes to trade in its remaining MD-83 for a 737-700 or -800  and envisages adding a ninth 737 in the middle of next year.

Source: Flight International