TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands – The privately owned BVI Airways says it has laid off all pilots and flight attendants due to cash constraints.
In an open letter to the public on Tuesday, the cash-strapped airline, that was scheduled to begin service between the Terrence B Lettsome International Airport and Miami International in the United States, said it is unable to do so due to the lack of funds.
“The pre-operating carry costs alone have cost us millions of dollars over the past year, and have depleted most of our cash reserves. The irony is, now that we are ready to start flying, we need to raise more money in order to do so…”
“We have been in discussions with the government for months, and are doing our best to raise the additional funds required, and will start flying once the necessary improvements are completed and the additional funds are secured,” the letter stated.
The airline has suffered several delays despite securing US$7-million from the government.
There were also setbacks as the carrier sought approval from Air Safety Support International in the United Kingdom, the US Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security.
“The regulatory process took much longer than all parties expected, and has put a significant strain on the company’s finances,” BVI Airways declared. “There are also significant costs involved such as hiring and training flight crew; acquiring aircraft, maintenance personnel, parts, facilities, ground handling, station personnel, ticketing, and reservations – to name just a few…”
According to the airline, some people may be underestimating the gravity of the pre-operating works an airline has to undergo.
Meanwhile, the airline said it hopes the staff lay-off will be temporary.
“BVI Airways regretfully announces that it is immediately laying off its entire flight crew – pilots and flight attendants – as a result of ongoing delays. Hopefully, this will be a very short-term situation, as we continue to work through the remaining issues with the government, and will be able to commence flights shortly.”
The airline also voiced concern about the impending extension of the runway at Terrence B Lettsome International Airport saying that it may pose a ‘serious threat’ to its viability, as the project would facilitate competition from large airlines that are based in the United States.
BVI Airways is currently the only carrier scheduled to operate directly to Miami.
The airline says this could change once the runway project is completed and any competition into the US market would be bad for the ‘combined investment’ it is making with the BVI government.