June 12 Port of Spain Trinidad: The national airline of this twin
island republic could undergo a 250 million US dollar restructuring based on recommendations made by a Cabinet-appointed
task force on BWIA.
The task force has advised Government to restructure the
cash strapped State-owned airline over a 12-month. . The seven member task force, chaired by businessman Arthur Lok Jack, has,
however, warned that restructuring would be the “most difficult option to execute.” It has further warned that
restructuring should only be undertaken under certain critical conditions, otherwise this would be “the worst option.”
Chief among the conditions is a complete overhauling of BWIA’s
current management structure that would include, critically, the introduction of entirely “new leadership” with
particular reference to the airline’s Board of directors and senior management.
Also listed as a “critical” condition is the restoration
of a strong maintenance organisation within BWIA, with the report noting that poor maintenance over the last two years has
led to several incidents of near crashes for the airline’s planes, the most recent occurring earlier this year.
The Task Force further stated it was not at all optimistic that
“these conditions can be fulfilled in a timely manner,” due to the “past history” of the airline.
Failing a properly implemented restructuring procedure, and for
which a Vesting Bill would be necessary, the task force recommended, as the next best available option, the outright shutting
down of BWIA, estimated to cost about US$350 million.
And a third option, the forming of a new airline, has been deemed
the “most expensive’” and “least attractive” for the Patrick Manning government.
The Lok Jack team further noted that a regional airline was not
possible until BWIA’s problems were addressed and resolved; if the national airline was properly restructured, “over
time” it can lead to the formation of a competent regional airlift, the task force said.
And while it did not address the issue of the inter-island airbridge,
the task force noted that outright closure of BWIA will definitely have an adverse effect on air transportation between the
islands since Tobago Express currently relies on BWIA for maintenance of aircraft.
The task force said injection of an initial tranche of capital of
about US$100m was necessary but that an entire amount of capital of US$250m should be injected into the airline in the next
This latest restructuring plan comes in the wake of BWIA being in
a loss-making situation for most of its existence, but especially so in the past 10 years.
BWIA employs 1,717 employees and generates a total revenue
of $US277 million, the report stated. The airline currently flies seven medium and long haul routes to the Caribbean, New
York and the UK, using a fleet of two Airbus A-340s and seven Boeing 737-800s