This tiny airline carries the distinction of being St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ newest and quite possibly most ambitious air travel service provider. One Caribbean Ltd Barbados Limited, trading as One Caribbean, is primarily Vincentian owned though circumstances evolved to require a Barbados based, CARICOM Single Market Economy styled registration.
The airline commenced operations in 2016 fueled by the prospects identified through its current CEO Reginald Adams and Everett Best, Operations Director.
These 2 Vincentians, together with at least one other investor, carved out a niche in the regional market as they began offering private chartered flights to travelers as far north as Jamaica and the Cayman Islands back down to Guyana in the Southern Caribbean. At that time, they employed 2 Beech-craft airplanes a B200 and an Airliner 1900D.
A few years after their inaugural charter, One Caribbean attempted to offer the first, indigenously sourced, Caribbean to the African and Asian continent flight using a Boeing 747-400.
Both principals are experienced pilots with thousands of flight hours between them. Best boasts over 35 years’ worth of cockpit experience since he graduated from the Moncton Flight Center in 1983. He spent 2 1/2 years as a Training Captain with Mustique Airways before moving on to an 8.5 years stint as a pilot with LIAT (1974) Ltd. When Best left LIAT’s employ in January 1995 it was so he could fly with the now defunct Carib Express.
The bulk of his active piloting years, though, would be spent with SVG Air where he was the Chief Pilot for over 20 years before marrying resources with Adams to roll out their One Caribbean venture. Best is also a qualified Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) Designated Examiner, CRM, Type Rating and Flight Operations Oversight instructor.
CEO Adams acquired his commercial pilot license in 1990 after securing his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Management the previous year. He would later rack up his cockpit hours flying on the African continent for at least 2 separate Nigerian airlines. Over the last 4 years his focus was wholly attuned to successfully implementing the One Caribbean vision.
The cessation of LIAT (1974) Limited’s operation subsequent to announcements made earlier this year provided greater opportunities for OCL Barbados Limited. In order to fully exploit these though, the 4 years old air travel company must embark on an accelerated expansion programme.
Adams described the current state of play in an exclusive interview with Asbert News Network. He said, “these are challenging times” with a “steep learning curve” as “lots of regulatory work” are ongoing to ensure that One Caribbean is compliant with regional aviation standards.
Recently the company was forced to shelve plans to transport passengers into and from Grenada when civil aviation authorities there objected to what amounted, in their view, to an abuse of the “compassionate exemptions” extended to the airline.
Adams reported that his airline has since heeded the Grenadian Civil Aviation Ministry’s explicit reminder to finalize the “appropriate license to operate continuous flights.” In fact we caught up with him on the day he returned to St. Vincent from his most recent meeting with the Grenadian civil aviation authorities.
“We didn’t get to meet with the Minister but we met with civil aviation, airport managers and some other key people in government. We went down to sign for the offices and for the protocols; as a matter of fact they were very accommodating,” Adams said. He also explained what led to the perceived infraction.
“Since 2017 we’ve been operating into Grenada on charter flights so they would say, ‘listen provide us with the information: your insurance, your aircraft maintenance’ – typical stuff. And they’d let us fly in and out. They’ve never stopped us and we have always supplied them with whatever information they need.
“When the thing with LIAT happened we let them know that we wanted to run some flights and we put the flights in and it became another steep learning curve. We figured this is Grenada; we never had a problem with them and they never had a problem with us. But I guess given the circumstances they want to make sure that all the permits were intact – i’s dotted and t’s crossed.
“We couldn’t accomplish that because [the application] had to go through the Civil Service then to Civil Aviation then come back down and the flights were already being sold. So it couldn’t go through the paper trail chute and come back to us in time. We tried to negotiate, in the short term, and said, ‘well listen, people are booking tickets and we applied for the permits but we couldn’t get it done in time so we had to start the service.’
“Two weeks later they were able to secure the short term permits for us while Civil Aviation gets their stuff done. So they have assured us that they will keep us on the short permit until the regularized permit is done and we’re okay to start the service again. So Grenada is back.”
Another issue that was surmounted was the ECCAA’s capacity to deliver on services as required by One Caribbean. This led the company to solicit alternative certification for its Argyle, St. Vincent based maintenance facilities since, “the ECCAA couldn’t get the maintenance facility certified in the timeframe that we needed it. Barbados was able to.
“We can’t run our planes without maintenance so because Barbados didn’t have any airlines, really, under them at the time it was much easier for them,” Adams explained.
This capacity issue also prompted One Caribbean to rethink its proposed Boeing 747-400 service as ECCAA reportedly refused to certify the long distance carrier based on its lack of adequate resources.
Adams however noted that they appreciate the value of the ECCAA certification and as such are working towards completing the process for its Argyle facilities.
One trial that must be masterfully managed is One Caribbean’s current Tortola to SVG service. That British Overseas Territory enacted COVID-19 management protocols that prohibit airline passengers from entering the island yet it has been increasingly pressuring non-citizens to leave. This singular challenge means that an aircraft from SVG would ultimately fly without passengers heading to Tortola and so incur inevitable losses, Adams again explained.
A cargo service is to be added to the airline’s schedule so that packages are ferried to Tortola and passengers flown out.
In the meantime the team is actively working to grow the company into a joint venture as they privately offer shares to like-minded investors from across the Caribbean. If all goes as planned 3 more aircrafts would be added to the fleet of Saabs that currently fly under the One Caribbean brand, by year’s end.
This, Adams confided, would better position the company to explore newer markets like Caracas and Belize in the not too distant future. To this end they have stepped up training both in anticipation of the new planes and in order to increase proficiency so to avoid operational errors that may lead to more than the solitary runway excursion event that marked their otherwise spotless safety record.