Ben Kilbey in LondonBWIA are expanding - at a time when many airlines are feeling the squeeze of fuel surcharges and mounting debt, creating further deficit in a company’s budget, BWIA has introduced two new hubs allowing European travellers increased options to access the Caribbean. With the introduction of flights from Glasgow Prestwick International and Belfast International, BWIA is responding to a growing customer demand. Peter Iland, BWIA’s Director Marketing & Sales UK & Europe, said; “We are developing our UK operations owing to the fact that we have been getting a lot of input that people want something new.“As with all airlines BWIA felt the negative effects post 9/11, things however were not as harsh in the UK. “As any airline following 9/11 we have found things a little difficult. Essentially our UK routes were not affected by the down turn in business. We have continued to grow over the last three years,” commented Iland.
This has been reiterated with the introduction of flights from Glasgow Prestwick International and Belfast International.
The weekly service from Prestwick will fly non-stop to Barbados, continuing to Port of Spain, Trinidad, with connections available to Tobago. The Belfast service will operate non-stop to Barbados and continue to Port of Spain. Both flights are scheduled to operate with an Airbus A340-300 aircraft in a two-class configuration, with introductory fares starting at £299 in Economy and £999 in Business/First.
Mr. Iland commented: “This initiative will enable Caribbean destined passengers from Scotland or Northern Ireland to avoid the long and expensive journey to London. We recognise that this new air service will make some of the most beautiful islands in the world much more accessible to a large number of people and look forward to bringing our famous Caribbean warmth to these new destinations.”
The response to the new routes has been somewhat extraordinary. On the first day of the announcement BWIA’s call centre was reported as receiving a ‘50 percent increase in call volume.’ Says Peter, “We have been quite amazed by the response. We have invested a certain amount of money but judging by the amount of interest it looks to be a wise investment. On the day we announced the new routes our call centre volume went up by some fifty percent.”
Caribbean Travel News spoke to Mr. Iland whilst at World Travel Market (WTM) where Peter indicated one of the reasons why the European visitor may be attracted to the Caribbean airline. “We are West Indian - we are not Virgin or the like - if you are flying to the Caribbean then you want that Caribbean flavour.”
That flavour may be further increased as Orlando Satchell - Executive Chef at St. Lucia’s Ladera resort - begins to work closer with the airline. Whilst at WTM, Satchell supplied the nibbles at the BWIA bar - a focal point for the Caribbean village - and in a passing comment indicated that he may soon be a key influence to what is on BWIA’s in-flight menu. Mr. Iland was very enthusiastic about Orlando’s culinary skills. “I don’t know how to say this but there is no unison in Caribbean cooking. If you go for a curry - you get a curry. Caribbean cooking is slightly harder to define - yet Orlando is working to bring all of the flavours together and create a new kind of Caribbean cuisine. He really is an excellent chef.”
No airline can function unless people book seats. Trends show that more and more people are utilising the Internet in order to book their holiday. BWIA have had a booking engine integrated into their website since 2000 and even though there is visible evidence that booking’s are being made Peter still sees the package holiday as being a dominate force. “Even though the Internet is taking more of our business the package still dominates. We are not breaking 10 percent of bookings made via the Internet. 50 percent of those bookings come from inter-island bookings.” Can we draw from that that the less independent leisure traveller still depends upon their agent to secure their bookings? Perhaps.
Glasgow flights will depart from Prestwick on Saturdays at 14.10hrs, arriving in Barbados at 18.40 hrs, continuing to Port of Spain and arriving at 20.15 hrs. The Belfast flights will operate on Sundays at 15.50 hrs, arriving in Barbados at 20.20 hrs, continuing to Port of Spain and arriving at 21.55 hrs.
Return flights to Glasgow depart on Fridays from Port of Spain at 20.30 hrs and Barbados at 22.05 hrs, arriving in Prestwick on Saturdays at 13.35 hrs following an intermediate stop in Manchester. Flights to Belfast depart on Saturdays from Port of Spain at 22.15 hrs and Barbados at 23.50 hrs, arriving in Belfast on Sundays at 15.05 hrs via Manchester.
The new services will launch early in 2005, bringing BWIA’s UK service points to four, and with the range of connections available in the Caribbean, clearly put BWIA as the lead carrier from the UK to the Caribbean.
BWIA currently offers a daily service from London Heathrow to Port of Spain, Trinidad, daily to Tobago, twice-weekly to Antigua, three-times weekly to Barbados and twice-weekly to St. Lucia.
For more information on BWIA visit www.bwee.com.