Back in July of 2007 we ran a post “Irish Competition For LIAT?” based on a very short column that appeared in the Irish press, since then we hadn’t thought much about it. We only connected the dots with the saga of the Low Cost Carrier AirOne quite recently. The AirOne story bumped along at the edge of our radar until this afternoon when we were investigating an unusual spike in interest in the above story.
The AirOne story begins back at the beginning of December last year in a Jamaica Gleaner story:
A group of entrepreneurs has applied to the Jamaican government to create the first Caribbean low-cost airline. Group head representative Ian Burns said: “We have made a formal application to the Jamaican Civil Aviation Authority under the name of Airone Ventures Ltd, although this isn’t the name that we will be flying under. We have the potential to add one million tourist arrivals to Jamaica within five years, a huge boost to the tourism industry.” The airline will also seek to open new markets and new routes. It will service the Caribbean, the United States and Latin America.
…. Speaking with Caribbean Business Report last night, Burns said: “We will be providing non-stop airlinks to the Caribbean, the United States and Latin America and will be using Boeing 737-300 aircraft. The idea is to develop Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport as an international hub for the Caribbean.
Sounds like great news for the Jamaican government to us doesn’t it? We could hardly believe what we found next in the Jamaican Gleaner
…However, last Thursday, the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance, Don Wehby, and a team of Government officials took the decision not to grant the new airline a licence now, essentially because the Government is in the process of divesting the loss-making Air Jamaica and it was felt that a decision to grant another carrier a licence at this time would adversely effect the divestment of the national carrier.
“We met with representatives of Airone last week and we regrettably were unable to grant the carrier a licence at this point in time,” Wehby told the Sunday Observer last night. “The divestment of Air Jamaica is our foremost priority, and the Government feels that it would not put it in a good light if it were to grant a carrier a licence to compete directly with Air Jamaica. In fact, to grant a licence at this time will not add value to Air Jamaica, and we would be seen as not negotiating in good faith. Our decision does not constitute an outright rejection of Airone. It is just a question of timing.”
Understandably the investors are pissed. However the great thing about airplanes is that they can move, so what happens next?
Last night, Buckley, one of Airone’s lead principals, told the Sunday Observer from Hong Kong, “We want to offer Caribbean people a low-cost carrier that will service the tourism industry and the Diaspora.
We want to grow new routes and help tourism thrive. There must be a way in which we can all survive together – that is, Air Jamaica remains the national carrier and goes from strength to strength and we are granted a licence. If we are unsuccessful in Jamaica we will set up operations in Barbados. If Air Jamaica is not divested in 12 months’ time, then Jamaica would have missed out on having an affordable, reliable carrier that would have been a boon to the tourism industry and Jamaicans living around the world.”
Now note the time frames here, NFTM reported what at that point was little more than a rumour about 6 months before AirOne was applying for a license. It is obvious that these investors are not letting the grass grow under their feet on this. A little more digging on our part revealed the following page on the website www.caribbeanjobs.com. We can only assume that the license has been granted.
Airone’s Mission is to bring cheap air fares to everyone in the Caribbean and to build the best non-stop route network.
As the first Caribbean Low Fares airline, Airone plans to become the largest airline in the region developing bases by combining bold deal making along with the quick rollout of new exciting routes from our base in Barbados. (our emphasis)
Using efficient aircraft and dedicated staff, Airone will provide unbeatable low fares, superior reliability, innovative products and services and a better choice of non-stop routes. We strive to continuously reduce costs in order to continually drive down the price of our low fares for our customers.
Airone is currently building its workforce and will employ over 200 people over the coming months. We are looking for bright, dynamic and energetic individuals with the ability to work in a flexible and fast paced environment. We have many opportunities for a wide variety of areas in this exciting new low fares airline!
Accompanying the post are vacancies for a number of management positions with the new airline.
As it happens the AirOne application would have come at a time where there was growing dissatisfaction with the current aviation agreements in Barbados. LIAT is the Worlds Most Expensive Low Cost Carrier, and BWIA/Caribbean Airlines unceremoniously pulled up stakes last year and removed a significant portion of the island’s airlift. Our sources in the aviation sector tell us that although Barbados is further away from the North American market than Jamaica, it is actually better suited geographically as a hub as it is very centrally located between Europe, South America, North America, Africa and the Eastern Caribbean. They also tell us that Grantley Adams has recently expanded it’s parking apron to facilitate the Cruise Ship passengers and hence capacity at the airport is not a problem.
Now Jamaica can hardly accuse Barbados of “stealing” this investor who went first to the Jamaican government to be turned down cold. However in this case it would appear that Jamaica’s loss is Barbados’ gain.
We on the margin will continue to follow this story.