Another questionable small regional airline plans to start up in the Eastern Caribbean
- - and its set-up and planned regulatory oversight is worrying.
April 16, 2017
Trans Island Air 2000 (abbreviated TIA) was a small charter airline based in Barbados, with headquarters in St. Philip, and operated regional charter flights (including cargo) out of its base at Grantley Adams International Airport, Barbados a FAA Category 2 airport.
The airline was founded in 1982 as Trans Island Air, and was rebranded by American buyer Bruce Kaufman as Trans Island Air 2000 in 2000, and at this time operated a mixed fleet including Pilatus Britten-Norman Islanders, Rockwell Aero Commanders, a DHC-6 Twin Otter and an Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirante.
The airline was subsequently closed, and remained so for several years, then re-emerged and last year, shut down now its on again ? like a bad dream.
TIA2000 has now apparently received an AOC (for Beech 99's and King Air 100) to re-commence flight operations, this time scheduled services on top of charters. It was expected to be fully operational by April 2017, but has encountered several difficulties along the way, and its Chief Pilot just resigned.
Its web-site, http://www.tia2000.com, was said to be currently under design development, and was expected to launch by April 1, 2017 at the latest, but so far [April 27, 2017] is still not functional. I can see this going to be another Carib Express (BAe 146), British Caribbean Airlines (BAe 146) or RedJet (MD-80), three very short lived airlines in the region that just did not make 'business' sense before they even got started.
Look, how do you start an airline in April, 2017 when your web page is not up yet to take reservations, I have seen this so often, and then they fly around with load factors below 25% bleeding cash, just must have reservations on line at least 3 months before first scheduled flight, especially today when everything is moving to online purchases.
The Governments of St. Lucia, Barbados and Dominica are counting on it to start up, to help with air connectivity and air access but a 3rd start ? its a funny operation and a roll of the dice for the various Governments, and lots of hopes will be crushed but then a airline based in St. Lucia, with Barbadian aircraft, working with a St. Lucia AMO and flying in a region under the ECCAA (Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority).
Who will issue the AOC Barbados ? seriously ? they are a joke, only a Category 2 airport themselves (plus Georgetown, Guyana, Curacao and St. Maarten), how will they look after an AMO in St. Lucia and operations throughout the Eastern Caribbean ? when they themselves cannot adhere to US FAA airport regulations ?
In fact, St. Lucia and Barbados do not even have a CAA, just a Ministry of Aviation, and Barbados has not even been able to become FAA Category 1 airport in many years, still just a Category 2, and if they can't adhere to FAA regulations on airport operations how can they have an oversight over commercial aircraft and operators ? that we can trust to be 'safe' and compliant with all regulations ? its a big "gong show" in my opinion.
Indonesia just got its Category 1 back from the US after losing it in April 2007, according to the FAA Indonesia was "no longer overseeing the safety of its airlines in accordance with international standards", and this is the case of Barbados today.
It can't get its airport up to international safety standards and therefore any airline registered there is not safe, and that is why Category 2 airport countries cannot start any new direct services into the USA or codeshare with any US airline and TIA 2000 with a Barbadian AOC, will be limited by codeshare opportunities, but also should be avoided if the FAA Category 2 is taken as a sign of poor safety oversight in that country at the airport and like in Indonesia, its commercial operators.
Seems like a lot of funny things going on in the Eastern Caribbean, that cannot work with so many aviation "authorities" having responsibility, it is just unworkable and unsafe, and if it goes through, then I won't fly on the airline, its another Caribbean aviation disaster in the making.
This is an area that is totally dependent on aviation for its citizens and valuable tourists to move around freely, but time and time again the industry is abused and held back from being an efficient money making business that serves its good people well.
Then there is the whole question of local government owned LIAT, and its reaction to any competition, while a forever money loser thanks to political interference, it has always stood up strongly to any new competitor (e.g. Carib Express, Caribbean Star) and won.
You do not step on LIAT's toes, best to co-operate, which sadly is a word the government airline does know, yet the ATR-42/72-600 operator badly needs smaller turboprop operators (DHC-6, Beech 1900D) to supplement and compliment its ATR fleet where and when demand is below profitability.
IF LIAT is ever to make money or stay out of bankruptcy, it needs to off load its "social routes" to smaller operators, bring in professional management team composed of people who know how to run a profitable airline, as no one in LIAT has that experience, and the Governments need to keep out of the running of the airline.
One only needs to look at Government owned Cayman Airways, now profitable, getting B737Max8's and will connect West Coast to Grand Cayman. Once airline executives are free to run an airline on commercial basis, even money losing airlines can become profitable, and hopefully Bahamasair is next to embrace this "hands off" approach as it seeks strategic partner for its national airline.
I work a lot in the Caribbean, and their graveyard of failed airlines over the past 37 years is 50+, that is a lot of airlines for a small region, including national carriers like Air Jamaica, BWIA, Guyana Airways, ALM down to small airlines like Helenair, Nevis Express, Tiara Air, Air BVI, Carib Aviation, Air Caribbean to CIA operations flying arms/drugs like St. Lucia Airways (L-100-20, B707) and Seagreen Air Transport (B707, CV990) back in the 1980's (see my blog; Aviation Doctor on clandestine airlines), seems only a few stick around a long time like SVG Air and Mustique Airways, unless they are backed by their Governments (Bahamasair, Cayman Airways, Surinam Airways, Caribbean Airlines, Winair and LIAT).
It will be interesting how this plays out, but the good news is that St. Vincent now has a new international airport (AIA) Argyle International Airport, and is looking for airlines to come and fly there, how about a flag carrier designation?