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May 6, 2002

New airline announces charters to Belize

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The first try was in 1977 with Belize Airways Ltd., and while that effort provided some of the best in-flight service in the world, the laws of economics eventually prevailed. Since that time a number of local operators have tried and failed to find a niche in the finicky market…and to be fair, the list of airline casualties also includes some U.S. heavyweights like Eastern, Pan American and Air Florida. Undeterred, another group of erstwhile investors arrived today at P.G.I.A., complete with a lot of promises and far fewer answers to questions from the press. Ann-Marie reports.

Ann-Marie Williams, Reporting

A new airline, which promises to provide weekly charter service between Miami and Belize, touched down at the Philip Goldson International Airport this afternoon.

Although the plane belongs to Cayman Airways, the men paying the bills call themselves Bel Air International Airlines. CEO David Honkala says the first charter flight is on June eighth.

David Honkala, CEO, Bel Air Int’l Airlines

“The flight is scheduled to leave here around 1 o’clock in the afternoon, which will put us around a 5 o’clock arrival into Miami. We tried to choose these schedules to make it convenient for people to connect on to other cities into the United Stated if they don’t intend to make Miami their final destination. There is still adequate flights in connecting time available to reach the west coast cities as well as the north east cities.”

The 737-200 airplane with a seating capacity of one hundred and ten, will operate between the United States and Belize.

David Honkala

“Miami being s shorter distance to some of the U.S. cities, that’s a good hub for us to have people flying from either from the north-east, or even from the west coast and connect through Miami onto Bel Air International flight.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“Where are your office be located?”

David Honkala

“Currently our head office is…on the state side it’s located in San Diego and we will have representation here in Belize as well.”

However, listening to the President of the Belize operations, Tom Greenwood, you’ll never know, especially since an office has not yet been set up.

Tom Greenwood, President, Belize Operations

“That is exactly what I’m hoping to set up within a matter of a few days if not a week or two, permanent offices in a good location in Belize City. This is really nascent, but we’re going to go for it, and I’m sure that Belizeans will get more than a great opportunity to purchase tickets at good prices and to fly to their favourite places, which will of course be Cayman and the United States and also include Cuba.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“You’ll operate as a travel agency I take it?”

Tom Greenwood

“Well what we’re going to do is more than that. We’re going to tie in with other operations. For instance, we’ll tie in with the tour operations to provide tour packages.”

And with any new venture, especially the volatile airline industry, the public is always interested in who the shareholders are. However, Honkala was not talking.

David Honkala

“The exact name of the shareholders, I’m not at liberty to discuss at the point.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“Why not?”

David Honkala

“The investment group that’s funding the airline at this point is based out of London and we will be starting out services and it’s very well funded from this investment group. It’s taken some extra time to make sure that we put everything together and in order, which we have now, and we’re hoping this is the first of a very long relationship of flight in and out of the country of Belize.”

Ann-Marie Williams for News 5.

Bel Air International Airlines will fly once per week, on Saturdays, between Miami and Belize. Viewers should note that the flights operate on a charter basis and that Bel Air International has no designation as a national flag carrier of Belize. In related news, as we reported last month, the United States carrier U.S. Air is expected to inaugurate regular service between Belize and Charlotte, North Carolina in the near future.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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