Barbados has been spared any major fallout from the recent collapse of the UK-based Thomas Cook group.
Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds has announced that the island will secure some 30,000 additional seats from Virgin Atlantic, that has agreed to fill that void.
In addition, Symmonds said while discussions are ongoing, there was a possibility of Barbados securing a “useful partner” to ensure there was only negligible, if any, fallout from the cruise side of the business for the upcoming winter season.
Symmonds made the disclosure on Tuesday during a media conference at his ministry’s Warrens, St Michael office.
“Yesterday, Virgin announced that we will be the beneficiary of an upgraded number of flights and consequently an upgraded number of seats. So that the 27,000 seats, which had been put into jeopardy immediately upon the collapse of Thomas Cook, are now defended and we will be in a position in fact, to have the benefit of 30,000 seats via Virgin Atlantic to Barbados and they will not be shared by any other destination,” Symmonds announced.
Virgin will have one additional weekly flight out of Manchester to Barbados, carrying 455 seats, and there will be two flights out of London Gatwick, which will take the number of Virgin flights to Bridgetown to nine weekly, during the winter season.
Following the collapse of the Thomas Cook group at the beginning of last week, the Barbados market stood to lose some 27,000 seats from Thomas Cook and another 12,600 from its subsidiary Condor, through its summer and winter business from Frankfurt.
Stating that both Thomas and Condor were integral to Barbados’ tourism, Symmonds explained that Government would be providing a form of guarantee to secure the additional seats through Virgin Atlantic.
“There have been no concessions given for this above and beyond the usual commitments towards core marketing. I am not a fan of the minimum revenue guarantee. But I believe
that when we have established partners like Virgin then it is really not a difficult proposition to sit down and say look we have additional flights we want to work with you in terms of putting some money behind the marketing.
“My estimation is that it probably will work out to perhaps something in the vicinity of what might be $60 for every seat additional that we have. I think it is worth it. That may calculate to just over $1 million over the course of the winter and we get far more than that. So it is a commitment towards defending this country’s capacity and a response to those people who had great confidence,” he explained.
He also pointed out that the 27,000 seats secured through Virgin were not a shared service for Barbados, Antigua, St Lucia and Tobago, as was the case with the Thomas Cook flights.
Expressing satisfaction with the work done so far in cushioning the island from any major fallout in the bread and butter industry, Symmonds said the Ireland-based Aer Lingus was also a potential “useful partner for Barbados” for both long-term scheduled flights as well as chartered flights for the air to sea passengers.
“I am pleased to say that yesterday [Monday], having had some discussions with P&O’s leadership, the cruise line has in fact begun their discussions with Aer Lingus and they are satisfied that those discussions are going well, and therefore, there is a substantial likelihood of Aer Lingus partnering with P&O in order to help us to make sure that we do not have passengers on the cruise side of our tourism product being dislocated,” explained Symmonds. P&O Cruises is operated by Carnival UK.
He said his ministry was also in talks with officials of Virgin Atlantic to help fill any void left by Thomas Cook in the cruise sector.
“Virgin Atlantic is also in discussions with P&O on this matter. Where we are now is that we are anticipating that we will be able to have mixed-use scheduled flights. So let us say if the aircraft is carrying 200 passengers, half of them may be set aside to carry the cruise passengers and the other half would be those who are coming here via regularly scheduled flights for long-stay,” he explained.
Symmond said in relation to a long-term relationship with Aer Lingus, there was “a wealth of possibility”, though acknowledging that it would not happen overnight.
Officials will need to work out some logistical issues including that of handling and transfer of luggage for cruise passengers, Symmonds said.
Barbados will be welcoming a direct service on October 28, 2019 from Frankfurt as a result of a new partnership with the Lufthansa Group. This is expected to bring over 25,000 new seats to Bridgetown