By Bevan Springer
En route last week to Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados, I enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of a world class airline. For the first time in several years, I took to the skies on BWIA West Indies Airways, or BWEE as everyone in the Caribbean knows it, the national airline of Trinidad & Tobago.In spite of unprecedented increases in fuel costs, increased competition from foreign carriers and millions of dollars in annual losses, Caribbean airlines, like BWEE and Air Jamaica, have not compromised on service nor safety. In fact, it is BWEE’s vision “to be renowned for superior customer service, high performance and natural Caribbean warmth.”
Congratulations are in order to the re-branded Trinidadian and Caribbean carrier, which celebrated its 64th Birthday this past weekend.
According to Dionne Ligoure, BWIA’s new Manager of Corporate Communications, “There is no feeling like seeing a BWIA plane at any airport in one of those metropolitan cities, particularly in winter. You get a sense of nostalgia ... without doubt our airline is the catalyst and model for West Indian pride in the world and in the region.”
Over the years, Caribbean carriers have been delivering outstanding service to the Caribbean Diaspora and the people of their region with passenger safety ranking above most of the world’s airlines.
This begs, of course, the ages-old question, why aren’t regional carriers doing more to collaborate as they each rack up millions of dollars in losses each annum?
There was talk recently of an attempt by Air Jamaica and BWIA to share rents for a future ticketing location in Brooklyn, but is that really the sum total of cooperation in this era of an impending single Caribbean Market and Economy? Are we purchasing fuel together? Are we sharing ticketing space worldwide? Are there codeshare or interline arrangements in place? What about joint marketing and promotions?
Officials from both airlines are usually tightlipped on this issue, yet in the low season months of September through December for example, BWIA and Air Jamaica are unnecessarily competing head to head for passengers on certain Caribbean routes, along with the major US players. Is this prudent, indeed, is it acceptable for the taxpayers of the Caribbean to pay the tab of these inefficient schedules?
A birdie once informed me that a few years ago BWIA and Air Jamaica tried to put substance in proposals calling for “functional cooperation,” but these efforts quickly waned. Efforts between BWIA and LIAT however have borne some fruit, but there’s still a long flight to fly.
While celebrating with BWIA about this important Caribbean aviation milestone, we should consider just how much further along Caribbean carriers would be if they collaborated seriously.
In a firmer spirit of Caribbean unity, the New York Chapter of the Grenada Disaster Committee is holding a benefit gospel concert on Saturday in Brooklyn to assist Grenadians affected by Hurricane Ivan.
Hopeton Lewis, Sister Bridget Boucher, Joan Myers, Wendy Mitchell, Felina Backer, Marilyn Isaac, Janice Charles, Dawn McDowell and Dennison George will minister to the audience in song. The event will be held at the Calvary Cathedral of Praise, 45 E. 8th St. at Caton Ave. Tickets are US$25 for adults and $10 for children under 12.