A regional airline proposal — yes, again!
Years ago, literally, I floated a suggestion which I put craneforum.org, as well as faxed to a number of prime ministers just before a CARICOM heads of government meeting, but I never received even one acknowledgement. I have sent it again periodically since then to certain prime ministers but, as before, nobody seems to be listening. Is it because they did not think of it first?
With full knowledge of the disharmony in the region, my thought was that the only way all these territorial kings and queens would work together — without Trinidad trying to take control of the entire project — would be to set up and operate a franchise arrangement.
That is, the various participating countries and territories initially finance a physical head office base, which could be anywhere in the Caribbean (except Trinidad, where such regional entities come under T&T political influence and slowly grind to a halt), and would be a central command/franchisor and handle the top level operations — including bulk purchasing, high-level contract negotiations, and overall scheduling.
The next layer would be the franchisees, who would be the existing carriers. They would all keep their own structures, aircraft, buildings, but give up identity and overall central control to the franchisor — mainly the livery (uniforms, paint and furnishing schemes), “look and feel”, scheduling and bulk purchasing.
Each would be required to convert its participating aircraft to the franchise — determined by the franchisor — and dress its crew members and ground staff the same (of course, the franchisor could have the uniforms made in bulk and provide them to the franchisees at huge discounts over what would usually be available locally).
Franchisees for this scheduled airline could be any size, large or small — indeed, a range of aircraft types is necessary across the region. They would also be permitted to carry on their own operations outside of the franchise (but not mix them) to operate their own divisions of charter, cargo, medevac, whatever else, alongside the franchise, but would be required to keep and document each operation separate in every way, including maintenance, operations and finances.
This is the broad overview. Obviously there are many more details to be figured out, but it would solve most problems now faced — the usual sovereignty, demand for control, maintained employment levels, etc. Common procedures and overviews would have to be established, but that’s not impossible to negotiate among governments who can be coerced to cooperate. Once started, the entire operation would be hands-off to politicians and be mandated to make a profit.
A major added advantage would be that the passenger transfer from one carrier to another would appear to be seamless. Shortages and/or excess of aircraft could be handled much more economically — usually when there is surplus in one area there may be shortage in another. If LIAT had a major breakdown in St. Kitts, they could ask “Master
Control” to find another franchisee anywhere in the region with a spare aircraft to help out.
The disruption would only be for as long as it took the supplying franchisee to provide and position the crew and aircraft — such as from BahamasAir, for instance — and because of the standardisation the passengers would hardy know the difference.
In an ongoing basis, instead of idling an aircraft in a slow
period, a franchisee could check with Master Control and see if they could use their aircraft more productively elsewhere in the region.
Standards would all be the same, operations would all be the same, training would all be the same (and centralised), all would be organised and provided under the same umbrella. There would be the exact same documentations and manuals, too, so even if a crew from one carrier had to operate a dry lease from another they would not even have to remove the paperwork from the aircraft.
For example, look at LIAT now — if they could have flown in a couple of aircraft from Jamaica and the
Bahamas at short notice their problems would have been solved in just the time it took for them to get there.
But at this time of major disruption and dissatisfaction with regional aviation is there anybody listening today? I wonder!
— James C. “Jim” Lynch