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Trinidadian Airline Lays Off 600

January 28, 2003

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PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) _ Trinidad’s main carrier, BWIA West Indies Airways Ltd., laid off more than 600 employees on Tuesday while the airline struggles with continuing weak travel demand since the 2001 terror attacks.

The 617 workers, including mechanics and customer service agents, make up about 25 percent of the airline’s 2,400 employees.

The layoffs are effective immediately, but the company will pay the workers for another 45 days, said Christopher Abraham, president of one of the unions affected by the layoffs.

BWIA management has blamed the company’s losses on the worldwide economic slowdown and the drop in air passengers following the attacks on the United States.

Trinidad’s government, which owns a one-third stake in BWIA, agreed in November to lend the company $13 million to help it restructure. To get the federal loan, the company must adopt a plan by Saturday to achieve monthly cost savings of $1.4 million.

The airline is working to reduce its fleet as part of its cost-saving efforts. It has also laid off about 40 pilots because of the changes and will contract out maintenance work to save money, BWIA said.

Other airlines in the region have suffered similar losses, prompting government officials to talk of merging them to form a Caribbean airline with Air Jamaica and Antigua-based LIAT.

BWIA generates about $260 million in annual revenues with flights to Miami, New York, Washington and 19 other destinations in the Caribbean, Canada, South America and England.


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