The Scarlet Ibis is the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago, where BWIA is based, and it appears in the country’s coat of arms. Thousands of these magnificent birds reside in the Caroni swamp, on Trinidad’s west coast, where they have become a major tourist attraction. Great flocks of ibis, moving at speed, return to the swamp at dusk, their scarlet plumage a vivid contrast with the green mangrove and the soft evening
light. As the leading expert on Trinidad and Tobago’s birds, Richard ffrench, put it: “It is an unforgettable sight, rivalling for sheer spectacle the mass movement of any other species in the world”.
But the ibis have not been breeding in the swamp as they used to: breeding birds have tended to migrate to quiet comers of the Venezuelan coast, and there has been no recorded breeding in the wild in Trinidad since the late 1960s.
Which explains the importance of the breeding programme started last year by the Pointe-a-Pierre Wildfowl Trust, the 26- hectare sanctuary which is researching and breeding endangered wildfowl and other indigenous birds, with the aim of releasing them and returning them to the wild.
A breeding programme for the Scarlet Ibis began in July 1991, and quickly resulted in the birth of two healthy ibis chicks. The programme continues, but that first success was quite a landmark: proof that the trend to breed away from Trinidad could be reversed.
BWIA’s association with the ibis is long and close. Our famous cabin service carries the name of the ibis, scarlet, silver and gold. And just as the Scarlet Ibis has been given a new lease on life, so BWIA is entering a new phase of development.
This year brings the prospect of an equity partnership with a major international carrier, to help BWIA extend its service into new areas. New marketing and operating alliances with big US carriers will provide much greater reach, easier long-distance connections and substantial cost savings. They will allow BWIA to offer connections into many more US cities. A closer working relationship with LIAT in
the Eastern Caribbean will provide easier connections between BWIA’s international services and the smaller islands of the region.
Already this winter far-reaching schedule changes have opened up new possibilities. BWIA now serves six European cities – Stockholm, Frankfurt, Cologne/Bonn, Munich, Zurich and London – and is the largest scheduled carrier between Europe and the Caribbean. There are five weekly European services this winter, and five London services, including a nonstop service between London and Tobago, the Caribbean’s newest tourist destination. Tobago also has direct links with Frankfurt, Stockholm and New York.
BWIA provides outstanding service between North America and the Caribbean, with seven weekly Toronto flights this winter, 18 servicing New York (with daily service to Grenada, Barbados, Tobago and Trinidad) and 21 through Miami. The winter schedule also provides Guyana with better connections through Trinidad to New York, London, Toronto and Miami.
It is a time of change and development for BWIA. The ibis is taking flight. And for BWIA, as for the Scarlet Ibis, the future looks good.