began life in 1940 as British West Indian Airways, but we've always
known it as BWIA, or "Bee-Wee." In a region where airlines often
seem to have the size and life expectancy of a fruit fly, BWIA was
It has also become
the latest venerable airline to face the sad music of
owner, the government of Trinidad and Tobago, is going to engineer
a financial makeover that will result in the emergence next year of
a new airline with most of BWIA's routes and, ideally, few of its
liabilities. It will also emerge with a new name: Caribbean
We hope that
venture is a success.
We also hope that
BWIA's predicament can serve as a reminder that Europe isn't the
only region of the world where governments and their airlines
should be rethinking the idea that every nation, no matter how
small, deserves its own intercontinental flag carrier.
In Europe over the
last decade, Belgium and Switzerland have faced the music. So has
the Netherlands, whose proud and venerable airline was acquired by
officials have been monitoring these events and working with their
counterparts in Europe to create an economic and political
environment where the gaggle of transatlantic airlines can
restructure, rationalize, consolidate and prosper -- the idea being
that it's better to have a few strong airlines than many weak
In the Caribbean,
the last decade has not been a happy one for prominent airlines
such as ALM, Air Jamaica, Cayman Airways and now BWIA.
Airways will someday benefit from a political and economic
environment where it can fulfill the promise of its name and form
the basis of a truly multinational entity.
The nations of the
Caribbean are taking steps to create a common market along the
lines of the European Union. The Caribbean has a long way to go,
but there's no reason why its airlines can't lead the way. It would
help if the U.S. government could pry its eyes away from
transatlantic issues for just a moment and offer whatever
assistance and encouragement it can.
We'll say it up front: We think the
invention of a lightweight, portable safety harness that keeps
toddlers safe in airline seats is the greatest innovation in air
travel since the no-smoking sign.
We say that because
it has the potential to put an end to the inane practice of
allowing (or requiring) parents to hold small children in their
laps, where nobody believes they are safe.
As we reported in
our news pages a week ago, the FAA has approved, for all airlines,
a supplemental harness developed by AmSafe Aviation that will allow
children over the age of 12 months and weighing up to 44 pounds to
safely occupy an airline seat without resorting to a bulky car
seat. The harness rolls up into a small tote bag.
The downside is
that the retail cost is $75, a price that we hope will come down as
time goes on and as other manufacturers get FAA approval for
similar devices. Maybe some enterprising and thoughtful airline
will figure out a way to soften the blow for families with a
promotional tie-in of some kind.
In the interim,
anybody who is in the business of counseling families about air
travel should bone up on the subject. A good place to start is http://kidsflysafe.com.