BWIA West Indies Airways

Last updated
BWIA West Indies Airways Ltd.
BWIA West Indies Airways logo.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded27 November 1939 (as British West Indian Airlines) [1]
Commenced operations27 November 1940 [1]
Ceased operations31 December 2006 (became Caribbean Airlines)
Hubs Port of Spain
Secondary hubs Barbados
Georgetown–Cheddi Jagan
Frequent-flyer program BWEE Miles
Fleet size10
Parent company 51% owned by private investors, 15% by employees and 35% by the Trinidad and Tobago government [1]
Headquarters Tunapuna–Piarco, Trinidad and Tobago
Key peopleKadim Khan (CEO) Arthur Lok Jack (Chairman)
Website[Former website

BWIA West Indies Airways Limited, known locally as "Bee-Wee" and also as British West Indian Airways, [2] was the national airline based in Trinidad and Tobago. At the end of operations, BWIA was the largest airline operating out of the Caribbean, with direct service to the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Its main base was Piarco International Airport (POS), Piarco, with major hubs at Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) and Cheddi Jagan International Airport (GEO) during 2006. It was headquartered in the BWIA Administration Building in Piarco, Tunapuna–Piarco on the island of Trinidad. [3] The company slogan was Sharing our warmth with the world.


The company announced on 8 September 2006 that the airline would be shut down on 31 December 2006. All of the approximately 1700 employees were separated from the company but applied for new contracts with a new entity, Caribbean Airlines. [4]


Early history

British West Indian Airways was established on 27 November 1939 by New Zealander Lowell Yerex. Operations started on 27 November 1940 with a Lockheed Lodestar twin on daily services between Trinidad and Barbados. By 1942, the airline had three aircraft of this type. In 1947, BWIA was taken over by British South American Airways (BSAA), after a few months operating as British International Air Lines the 'BWIA' name was restored on 24 June 1948 for operating routes among the Caribbean Islands using Vickers Viking twin piston-engined airliners.

BWIA International Boeing 707-227 at Miami in 1972 Boeing 707-227 9Y-TDQ BWIA MIA 17.04.72 edited-3.jpg
BWIA International Boeing 707-227 at Miami in 1972

In 1949, BSAA merged with British Overseas Airways Corporation and BWIA became a subsidiary of BOAC. Vickers Viscounts were introduced in 1955 with Bristol Britannias leased in 1960 to fly the long-haul route to London, via New York City. In 1960 BWIA had its head office in Port of Spain, Trinidad. [5] On 1 November 1961, the government of Trinidad and Tobago acquired 90% of the shares in the airline and achieved complete ownership by 1967.

For BWIA the jet age began in 1964 with the introduction of new Boeing 727-100 jetliners billed as the Sunjet, [6] which replaced the Viscount turboprops on the New York route. In early 1971 four second-hand Boeing 707 series 200 airliners were purchased from Braniff International Airways and operated on intra-Caribbean services until their disposal in late 1975. [7]

Later history

The London route was restarted in 1975 using Boeing 707 jets. In 1976 Peter Look Hong replaced Sven-Erik Svanberg as CEO of BWIA. [8] BWIA became BWIA International Airways in 1980 after a merger with Trinidad and Tobago Air Services (which had been formed by the government in June 1974), becoming the national airline. BWIA aircraft livery had the 'Trinidad and Tobago Airways' adjacent to the 'BWIA International' after the merger. The same year also saw the Boeing 707s replaced on the London service with long-range Lockheed L-1011-500 TriStar wide-body jetliners. In 1986, BWIA bought its first McDonnell Douglas MD-83. The airline also operated stretched McDonnell Douglas DC-9-50 jetliners as well as a Boeing 747-100 jumbo jet at one point.

BWIA Boeing 747-100 in 1987 BWIA Boeing 747-100 Maiwald.jpg
BWIA Boeing 747-100 in 1987
BWIA McDonnell Douglas DC-9-51 in 1989 McDonnell Douglas DC-9-51, BWIA International - Trinidad and Tobago Airways AN0263101.jpg
BWIA McDonnell Douglas DC-9-51 in 1989

By 1994, the airline had become partially privatised. A substantial reorganisation of its route network left London and Frankfurt the only European destinations. The airline ordered Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft, then canceled the order in favor of Airbus A321 and Airbus A340 jets; in turn, this order was dropped after only two A321s were delivered. On 22 February 1995, the government of Trinidad and Tobago completed the privatisation of BWIA by turning over majority control of the common stock and management of the airline to a private group of US and Caribbean investors.

BWIA Airbus A340-300 in 2002 Bwia.a340-300.9y-tjn.arp.jpg
BWIA Airbus A340-300 in 2002

In the early 2000s (decade), BWIA changed its livery to a new Caribbean green and blue color scheme with its famous steelpan trademark, the national musical instrument of its home base. The fleet had been upgraded to seven Boeing 737-800 Next Generation aircraft, two Airbus A340-300s, and two Bombardier de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Q300 Dash 8 twin turboprop regional aircraft flown by BWIA's sister airline Tobago Express, which provided service on the short hop between Port of Spain and Trinidad's sister island Tobago as well as other destinations in the region.

By 2003, BWIA had become one of the leading Caribbean airlines, carrying over 1.4 million passengers a year with over 600 departures in the Caribbean and another 60 international departures every week. BWIA earned roughly US$276 million per year, employed 2,350 staff, had 70 daily flights, and carried 8,100 tonnes (17,900,000 pounds) of air cargo per year. Its inflight magazine, Caribbean Beat , was well regarded. However, BWIA had also been plagued by losses and had a history of continuous injections of funds from the government of Trinidad and Tobago. The airline had filed for an IPO, although no date was set. The airline was owned by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (75%) and private shareholders (25%) and had 2,588 employees (in January 2005). It also had holdings in other airlines: Tobago Express (45%) and LIAT (23.6%).

On September 8, 2006, BWIA West Indies Airways announced its demise, after failed negotiations with the ACAWU, CATTU, Superintendent's Association and BWIA's management. CEO Peter Davies, who joined BWIA in March 2006, said that a new airline, Caribbean Airlines, based in Trinidad and Tobago, would replace BWIA after 66 years of flying the Caribbean skies. Caribbean Airlines remains in current operation.

BWIA's Pilots were represented by the Trinidad and Tobago Airline Pilots Association (TTALPA), which is affiliated to IFALPA. TTALPA is also part of the regional Caribbean Airline Pilots Association (C-ALPA). The other recognised Unions at BWIA were: Airline Superintendents Association; the Aviation, Communication and Allied Workers Union, which represented ground staff and flight attendants, and the Communication, Transport and General Workers Union which organised middle management and engineers.


BWIA operated the following services:

North America
South America

Through a codeshare agreement with United Airlines, it offered connecting service to Boston, Denver, Chicago–O'Hare, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle/Tacoma. BWIA also had an alliance with another Caribbean airline, LIAT, which together provided over 30 regional destinations.


BWIA Boeing 727-100 in 1965 Boeing 727-78, BWIA West Indies Airways JP6853185.jpg
BWIA Boeing 727-100 in 1965
BWIA Lockheed Tristar in 1995 Lockheed L-1011-385-3 TriStar 500, BWIA International AN0846879.jpg
BWIA Lockheed Tristar in 1995

The BWIA fleet consisted of the following aircraft (at August 2006): [9]

BWIA fleet
Boeing 737-800 716138154Short-Medium Haul
Airbus A340-300 232252284Medium-Long Haul

In addition, BWIA's regional airline affiliate, Tobago Express, operated de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Q300 Dash 8 turboprop aircraft.

Former fleet

The following aircraft types have been operated by BWIA: [10] [11] [12]

BWIA former fleet
Airbus A321-100 219961997
ATR 72-200 220042006Leased from Cimber Air
Boeing 707-120 219681977
Boeing 707-220 419711976
Boeing 707-320 919741983
Boeing 720 119661967Leased from Aer Lingus
Boeing 727-100 419641971
Boeing 737-700 119992000
Boeing 747-100 119871987Leased from Cargolux
Bristol Britannia 2Un­knownUn­knownLeased from BOAC [13]
Bombardier Dash 8 Q100 119921993Leased from Air Ontario
Bombardier Dash 8 Q300 519932006
Douglas C-47A Skytrain 519521975
Douglas DC-6 319711980
Douglas DC-7C 119701972
Douglas DC-8-51F 119921992Leased from Agro Air
Douglas DC-8-54F 119921992Operated for Agro Air
Hawker Siddeley HS 748 719691987
Lockheed Hudson 319441946
Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar 519451952
Lockheed L-1011-500 TriStar 519802004
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 120042004Leased from JAT Airways
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-34CF 119781986Transferred to Aeropostal
McDonnell Douglas MD-82 119851985Leased from Frontier Airlines
McDonnell Douglas MD-83 919862003
Short SA.6 Sealand 219491950
Vickers Viking 819481958
Vickers Viscount 700 919551970



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  2., British West Indian Airways system timetables from 1946 to 1968
  3. "World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 23, 1999. 66. Retrieved on September 30, 2009.
  4. Trinidad Express: Bye Bye BWEE, Hello Caribbean Airlines
  5. "World Airline Directory." Flight International. 8 April 1960. 494.
  7. Roach, 2003, p. 9
  8. "Former Laborer Heads BWIA". The Virgin Islands Daily News . Port of Spain. Reuters. 31 January 1976. p. 5. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  9. Flight International, 3–9 October 2006
  10. Davies, R.E.G.: Airlines of Latin America since 1919. Putnam Aeronautical Books, London 1997, ISBN   0-85177-889-5, p. 652–653.
  11. Klee, Ulrich and Bucher, Frank et al.: jp airline-fleets international. Zürich-Airport 1966 until 2006.
  12. "BWIA fleet". Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  13. - 2/1/63 BWIA system timetable
  14. Staff writer (2006). "The Caribbean's Leading Airline". World Travel Awards . Retrieved 16 December 2011.