Flag carrier to close and be replaced by new airline

Trinidad and Tobago's long-struggling flag carrier BWIA West Indies Airways is to be closed down and replaced by a new operator, Caribbean Airlines.

The move follows years of financial losses at BWIA, and a recent impasse in talks between the carrier and its unions, which threatened its planned reorganisation.

Under the plan announced earlier this month, Trinidad and Tobago's government - which owns over 97% of BWIA - has approved a "substantial capital injection" to create Caribbean Airlines, which like its predecessor will be based at Trinidad's Piarco Airport.

BWIA will continue uninterrupted service while management transitions to Caribbean Airlines, which is expected to launch regional and international flights in early 2007.

Eligible BWIA employees will be offered separation packages and given the opportunity to apply for positions with Caribbean Airlines. However, BWIA notes that the new packages "will be competitive within the current airline market".

BWIA chief executive Peter Davies, who took the helm at the financially ailing operator earlier this year, says the mandate he received from the government enabled management to recognise the dynamic changes that are affecting the global airline industry and to position Caribbean Airlines to cope with growing competition.

Source: Flight International