Davies, BWIAs chief executive.
Anticipation for Caribbean Airlines is the countdown for 66-year-old
national carrier BWIA.
The execution process is well underway as negotiations between
unions and BWIAs management have been resolved and the
new hummingbird logoed look launched on Monday.
With an upcoming Christmas traffic, Carnival in February followed
by World Cup Cricket in March, the airline will have no room
Peter Davies, BWIAs Welsh chief executive, is assured
of meeting the January 1, 2007 start-up date as he trims up
the airline to its rebranded entity.
In an interview with the Business Guardian at Sunjet House
on Tuesday, a confident Davies explained that Caribbean Airlines
was making progress.
He glibly noted that the newspapers had been kind in recent
weeks as he prepared a cup of black coffee in the companys
board room prior to this meeting. Glancing around the room,
he noted that the room had held a lot of heated discussions
but decisions were made.
Erasing BWIAs history to replace it with an new entity
was sharply criticised but Davies explained that he was left
with little choice.
did not come to this decision (the shutdown) originally. The
task force decided that BWIA should be restructured and I
was bought in to look at that.
Cognizant of the fact that change is always hard, he stressed
that there are lessons one learns.
live in a world which is constantly changing but I suppose,
at the end of the day, its always good for people to accept
that. So that the cultural translation is an area which requires
job is to create the right environment for other people to
work to the best of their ability. The important group of
people as far as I am concerned is the staff followed very
closely by the customers.
He cited communication amongst staff members and customers
as the most important link to proper working environment.
and never leave anyone in doubt as to what is happening. Unfortunately,
in the last few months that has not been the situation because
the negotiations have been somewhat procrastinated with the
union, it was all very difficult to communicate.
very difficult for them at the moment because they are going
through a level of anxiety because a lot of them know they
wont work in the new airline, a lot of people face retirement
and not everyone wants to come back and work for Caribbean
Airlines and thats perfectly understandable.
How do you detach the clinical from the emotional?
a leading question, I could write a book on that one,
job is to de-confuse that I suppose and make it more personable.
Always try to understand the other persons point of
view. You may not agree with it but that is how I try to run
the union negotiations where I didnt agree with what
they were saying.
is a very thin dividing line between being autocratic and
being sort of impersonal or not giving the impression that
you are interested. As opposed to going to the other extreme
and I have to strike that balance between the two. Show compassion
and show empathy.
It is Davies personalitya mix of business acumen, self-deprecating
humour and foresightwhich is important in effecting
always see myself a bit like a harbour pilot. My job is to
bring the ship in, get it to turn around and head back out
quite enjoyed that because it is quite dynamic, there is never
an opportunity or time to get bored and youre constantly
looking for ways which you can improve things. I like the
cut and thrust of that business.
Getting a logo was just the beginning to creating a solid
brand for the airline.
was trying to make it obviously Caribbean but also I wanted
to make people understand where the roots of the airlines
are in a subtle way and that is why I favoured the hummingbird.
Thats also why I favoured the T&T flag going on
the aircraft along with the Caricom flag. I really wanted
to make sure people understood that the roots are here.
The sentiment has meet with a 90 per cent approval rate, he
But Davies target, while still loyal BWIA travellers, has
widened to include former disgruntled passengers.
do know that for every one passenger that travels in BWIA
there are ten disgruntled passengers so we need to attract
those people back and earn their trust in the hope that Caribbean
Airlines will be much better than BWIA and we can reclaim
And while the marketing for the new company will be unraveled
in the upcoming weeks, he pointed out that management was
ironing out details.
At least 93 per cent of the companys 1,800 employees
had signed up for VSEP packages and a regional recruitment
will begin next week.
Local would-be employees could have submitted applications
lot of people want to work in the airlines and we want to
make sure they have the opportunity to do so, Davies
explained of hiring regional workers.
are obviously looking for the best people. There are a lot
of people who have worked for BWIA and left for various reasons.
When youre running any company you want to make sure
everybody has the opportunity to apply and we want to cast
the net as wide as possible.
am sure that the majority will come from BWIA staff and I
am not precluding them whatsoever. But I think equally we
should give other people the opportunity to apply as well.
And the staff that was once 1,800 will be kept to about 550
people and salaries, which was once the companys biggest
bill, will average about 35 per cent of expenditure.
He noted that the fuel bill in recent months has overtaken
the salary bill but with oil now less than US$60 a barrel
there is a reduced percentage.
oil, there is no logical answer. The situation is real and
then something like Lebanon happens which surprises everyone,
you cant gauge for that, he said referring to
fluctuating oil prices.
obviously do have some idea about prices anticipated and unfortunately
those issues are not going to go away quickly. You cant
make an intelligent guess, its pretty difficult.
Fuel is estimated to account for about 25-30 per cent of the
The Government has injected more than US$250 million for BWIAs
restructuring which will be paid out in VSEP payments and
other debts the company has accumulated.
In June, Cabinet approved an additional US$100 million to
meet the equity injection for the recapitalisation of the
VSEP is a confidential figure between the shareholders and
the union but certainly the important thing we have sufficient
cash to pay for VSEP and also to satisfy all the creditors
creditors include leasing companies, fuel (which is up-to-date)
and some suppliers that we have not been able to pay because
we have insufficient cash flow. We are working through our
process at the moment.
More than that, the company has to now market itself and this
will be done with a mixture of press advertisements and radio.
need to reassure everyone because there is still some doubt
about the airline. And that is understandable that people
are questioning any ticket issued by BWIA or BWIA miles. If
you fly out on December 31, you are going to come back with
the same aircraft. Only it will be Caribbean Airlines.
Last month, BWIA cut its Washington route which Davies explained
was not successful because it wasnt making money.
He said the company would maintain the routes it now operates
and build efficiency from there.
I am looking to do is to create a solid base which allows
the existing routes to be serviced properly.
He noted that Liat and Caribbean Star were in possible merger
talks and from an intercontinental perspective airlines like
Condor and American Airlines were getting stronger financially.
they are in a better position to spend more money on marketing.
We have to keep ahead otherwise we will get behind,
he said as Caribbean routes accounted for about 50 per cent
of BWIAs business.
He observed that the US Governments decision to mandate
its citizens to have passports travelling to the Caribbean
will have an impact.
what extent, no one really knows. We have to gauge that and
take account of how that affects our business. Having said
that a lot of BWIA traffic are T&T nationals and visiting
friends and relatives. The American market has not been huge
Davies said his commitment is not an egocentric decision saying,
I thought there was an opportunity here to use my style
of management and try and turn the company around. Its
just the opportunity to create something and to provide assistance