BWIA are facing government leadership following a last minute call last night by Junior Finance Minister Christine Sahadeo that halted international bidders from seizing the airlineå‘s five remaining aircraft.
Having bought itself a few more hours, the Government will shortly meet with officials of the International Lease Finance Corporation in a last ditch attempt to keep the carrier in the air.
BWIA’s debt now stands in at an estimated US$100 million, according to airline directors, who described the airline as “bankrupt” yesterday.
As a move toward restoring confidence in the company, the Lawrence Duprey-led BWIA board has accelerated a review of the airline’s management team led by chief executive Conrad Aleong.
Aleong has indicated by letter to the board that if his presence at BWIA is preventing the airline from receiving financial aid, he was prepared to leave the company.
Duprey returned to Trinidad from London last night, and was said to have immediately gone into meetings, possibly to make a decision on his own future at BWIA.
Money owed is US$28 million and includes immediate rent of about US$4 million to lessors, US$9.1 million in severance, and US$2 million in US taxes.
In a May 23 advisory, ILFC warned BWIA that it had until 5 p.m. yesterday to come up with a US$5.5 million payment or face seizure of four Boeing 737-800s and one Airbus A340 leased aircraft.
The creditors moved in last week to seize two Boeing 737s in Miami.The planes are still impounded in Miami. No money has yet been paid for their retrieval.
At 5 p.m., ILFC was scheduled to take BWIA’s aircraft, which would have crippled the entire airline.
But, according to Dr Keith Rowley, Minister Sahadeo telephoned ILFC in the United States and “convinced them to come to Trinidad and Tobago” to negotiate with the Government in an effort to rescue the airline.
The next 48 hours will be crucial to the airline’s future and the Government will talk with ILFC to see what can be “salvaged” as an attempt to save BWIA, said Rowley.
“The situation requires direct contact with the lessor,” Rowley said, noting that what was needed was a restoration of confidence that BWIA’s debts could be paid.
Rowley’s comments followed an update on the airline’s financial position from directors.
Rowley said a Canadian auditing firm, Zwaig International, which is already doing work in Trinidad, has been hired to review BWIA’s financial position.