BWIA West Indies Airways

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BWIA West Indies Airways Ltd.
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded27 November 1939 (1939-11-27)
(as British West Indian Airlines)[1]
Commenced operations27 November 1940 (1940-11-27)[1]
Ceased operations31 December 2006 (2006-12-31)
(re-organized as Caribbean Airlines)
HubsPort of Spain
Secondary hubs
Frequent-flyer programBWEE Miles
SubsidiariesTobago Express (2001—2006)
Parent company50% ownership by private investors, 15% by employees, and 35% by the Trinidad and Tobago government[1]
HeadquartersTunapuna–Piarco, Trinidad and Tobago

BWIA West Indies Airways Limited, known locally as "Bee-Wee" and formerly as British West Indian Airways and BWIA International 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[edit]

BWIA air hostesses (1955)

British West Indian Airways was established on 27 November 1939 by New Zealander Lowell Yerex. Operations started on 27 November 1940 with a piston powered Lockheed Lodestar twin engine aircraft 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

In 1949, BSAA merged with British Overseas Airways Corporation and BWIA became a subsidiary of BOAC. Vickers Viscount four engine turboprops 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. According to its timetable, in 1968 the airline was operating nonstop Boeing 727 flights from New York to Antigua with continuing no change of plane 727 service to Barbados, St. Lucia and Port of Spain as well as nonstop 727 flights from Miami to Grand Cayman and Montego Bay with continuing no change of plane 727 service to Kingston, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados and Port of Spain, and was also serving Caracas, Guyana, Suriname and Tobago with the 727.[7] In early 1971 four second-hand Boeing 707 series 200 airliners were purchased from Braniff International Airways and operated on US and intra-Caribbean services until their disposal in late 1975.[8]

Later history[edit]

The London route was restarted in 1975 using Boeing 707 jets. In 1976 Peter Look Hong replaced Sven-Erik Svanberg as CEO of BWIA.[9] 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 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

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 served the following destinations during its existence although not all of these destinations were served at the same time:

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, with both carriers providing combined service to over 30 regional destinations.


BWIA Boeing 727-100 "Sunjet" in 1965
BWIA Lockheed L-1011 Tristar (series 500) in 1995

The BWIA fleet consisted of the following aircraft in August 2006:[17]

BWIA fleet
Aircraft In
Passengers Notes
C Y Total
Boeing 737-800 7 16 138 154 Short-Medium Haul
Airbus A340-300 2 32 252 284 Medium-Long Haul
Total 9

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

Former fleet[edit]

The following aircraft types have been operated by BWIA:[18][19][20]

BWIA former fleet
Aircraft Total Introduced Retired Notes
Airbus A321-100 2 1996 1997
ATR 72-200 2 2004 2006 Leased from Cimber Air.
Boeing 707-120 2 1968 1977
Boeing 707-220 4 1971 1976
Boeing 707-320 9 1974 1983
Boeing 720 1 1966 1967 Leased from Aer Lingus.
Boeing 727-100 4 1964 1971
Boeing 737-700 1 1999 2000
Boeing 747-100 1 1987 1987 Leased from Cargolux.
Bristol Britannia 2 Un­known Un­known Leased from BOAC.[21]
De Havilland Canada Dash 8-100 1 1992 1993 Leased from Air Ontario.
De Havilland Dash 8-300 5 1993 2006
Douglas C-47A Skytrain 5 1952 1975
Douglas DC-6 3 1971 1980
Douglas DC-7C 1 1970 1972
Douglas DC-8-51F 1 1992 1992 All-cargo freighter leased from Agro Air.
Douglas DC-8-54F 1 1992 1992 All-cargo freighter leased from Agro Air.
Hawker Siddeley HS 748 7 1969 1987
Lockheed Hudson 3 1944 1946
Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar 5 1945 1952
Lockheed L-1011-500 TriStar 5 1980 2004
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 1 2004 2004 Leased from JAT Airways.
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-34CF 1 1978 1986 Transferred to Aeropostal.
McDonnell Douglas MD-82 1 1985 1985 Leased from Frontier Airlines.
McDonnell Douglas MD-83 9 1986 2003
Short SA.6 Sealand 2 1949 1950
Vickers Viking 8 1948 1958
Vickers Viscount 700 9 1955 1970


  • 1995, 1996, 1997 - The "Caribbean's Leading Airline" - by the World Travel Awards[22]


  • Roach, John (2003). Jet Airliner Production List Volume 1 - Boeing. The Aviation Hobby Shop. ISBN 0-907178-97-9.


  1. ^ a b c Norwood, Tom; Wegg, John (2002). North American Airlines Handbook (3rd ed.). Sandpoint, ID: Airways International. ISBN 0-9653993-8-9. Archived from the original on 2016-11-28. Retrieved 2019-06-01.
  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.
  6. ^ "1964 British West Indian Airways PRINT AD BWIA in the Boeing 727".
  7. ^ [bare URL image file]
  8. ^ Roach, 2003, p. 9
  9. ^ "Former Laborer Heads BWIA". The Virgin Islands Daily News. Port of Spain. Reuters. 31 January 1976. p. 5. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  10. ^ Dec. 15, 1989 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Baltimore flight schedules
  11. ^ April 2, 1995 OAG Desktop Flight Guide, Zurich flight schedules
  12. ^ [bare URL image file]
  13. ^ Feb. 15, 1985 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Montego Bay flight schedules
  14. ^ Dec. 15, 1989 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Aruba flight schedules
  15. ^ Feb. 15, 1985 Official Airline Guide (OAG), St. Kitts flight schedules
  16. ^ April 2, 1995 OAG Desktop Flight Guide, St. Lucia flight schedules
  17. ^ Flight International, 3–9 October 2006
  18. ^ Davies, R.E.G.: Airlines of Latin America since 1919. Putnam Aeronautical Books, London 1997, ISBN 0-85177-889-5, p. 652–653.
  19. ^ Klee, Ulrich and Bucher, Frank et al.: jp airline-fleets international. Zürich-Airport 1966 until 2006.
  20. ^ "BWIA fleet". Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  21. ^ - 2/1/63 BWIA system timetable
  22. ^ Staff writer (2006). "The Caribbean's Leading Airline". World Travel Awards. Retrieved 16 December 2011.

External links[edit]