In contrast to its agreement without any publicly stated conditions to provide EC$9 million to regional airline LIAT, the Trinidad and Tobago government announced its agreement in principle to give financial support to BWIA but subject to conditions set out in a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the airline. The announcement was made at the weekly post cabinet press briefing at White hall in Port of Spain on Thursday November 7.
The agreement was brokered in a Tuesday meeting between BWIA’s CEO and President Conrad Aleong, Trade Minister Ken Valley and Prime Minister Patrick Manning. According to the terms of the agreement BWIA now has to:
1. Reduce monthly expenses by US$1,400,000, an increase of US$400,000 over what the airline had originally targeted and US$600,00 more than it has achieved to date, after some tough negotiations with the unions representing its workers; and
2. Cooperate with the government in a series of exercises aimed at pushing forward its strategy for the establishment of a single regional carrier, combining BWIA, Air Jamaica and LIAT.
The exact amount of the loan agreed to was not revealed, but trade minister Valley said that it would be roughly the amount requested by the airline. BWIA had requested US$13 million.
The first stage of the regionalisation exercise will be a six-month study by external consultants with a mandate to recommend additional cost efficiencies at BWIA, and ” to advise on an appropriate structure for the airline, including the concept of a one Caribbean airline or regional carrier”. The study is expected to commence in January of 2003.
Prime Minister Manning also revealed that Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson had re- affirmed his commitment to a single regional airline and said, ” On that basis we thought we could proceed to talk with BWIA”.