Business Irish

Saturday 20 September 2014

Proposals for Caribbean 'Ryanair' are grounded

Failure to gain licence and high oil prices blamed for low-cost carrier stalling

Ailish O'Hora Business News Editor

Published 07/03/2008 | 00:00

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Plans by a number of Irish businessman including Digicel vice-president Leslie Buckley and former rugby international Brendan Mullin to launch a new Caribbean airline later this year have been grounded, the Irish Independent has learned.

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It is understood a number of issues have led to the decision, including the recent surge in oil prices and the failure of the Jamaican government to give the airline a licence.

The decision was also taken against the backdrop of the current turmoil in financial markets and the collapse of US consumer confidence.

The original venture, which had been dubbed the "Ryanair of the Caribbean", was to launch the airline in May 2008 covering the Caribbean as well as flights linking the region to the US and Latin America.

Since then, oil prices have shot up from about the $70 dollar a barrel level to spike close to $106 yesterday.

In addition, concerns about the subprime market in the US have had a significant negative affect on US consumer confidence.

While the decision by the Jamaican government not to give the licence to Airone pending the privatisation of Air Jamaica was taken earlier this year, the company had been looking at an alternative plan for Barbados, but that has also been put on hold.

It had already began recruiting staff for a Barbados base of operations.

Future

Informed sources said yesterday the company is "continuing to assess the situation" in relation to future plans for Airone.

It is understood about $30m (€20.4m) had been raised for the venture. Other business players on board are Ian Burns, the president of Wanderers rugby club, and Peter Delaney, the former director of operations at Guinness Peat Aviation.

Mr Mullin, who left Quinlan Private to set up public and private equity firm Quantum Investment Capital, recently joined NCB's private wealth division and Quantum has backed into that business as a result.

BJM Nominees and Mr Buckley are the main shareholders in the company, with the remaining 22pc made up of promoters and cash investors.

At the time of the launch last year, the company confirmed it was positioning itself as a low-cost carrier.

"We are here to establish a headquarters and a home from which we will grow to over 25 planes spread over seven bases within the Caribbean and the Americas," the company said in its business plan.

Airone Ventures was promising fares as low as 80pc below current charges available from competitors flying to Jamaica and other Caribbean destinations.

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