Antigua Airways (Antigua) is to be partly capitalised with funds from the Eastern Caribbean Commonwealth state's Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), with the government expecting to own 20% of the startup, according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne.

Speaking in the Antigua and Barbuda Parliament on October 6, Browne said: "What we did do is to list it as a CIP project and one in which we have allocated up to ten CIP files, and if and when they are subscribed, then we will get, I believe, about 20% of the shares".

Under the CIP programme, Antigua and Barbuda provides citizenship to foreign investors who significantly contribute to the island's socio-economic development.

He said Antigua Airways would start as a charter carrier connecting Antigua and Barbuda and the wider Caribbean to Africa, with some relationship with LIAT 2020 (Antigua) when the carrier becomes operational under the newco. "My understanding is that the service will start as a charter service. They are also trying to have a sustaining relationship with LIAT 2020 when we would have operationalised LIAT 2020. We have been told so far that the arrangements to lease the plane and start operating are on target," Browne was quoted by Antigua News Room. He was responding to questions from the floor about how much money was being spent on funding Antigua Airways. The startup reportedly plans to operate a wet-leased B767-300ER in a dual-class configuration (16 business and 251 economy class seats).

As announced in Cabinet notes in July, Antigua Airways is to operate direct flights from West Africa to the Caribbean country by the end of this year. The airline would be owned up to 80% by a group of wealthy Nigerian investors who wished to open up opportunities between Africa and the Eastern Caribbean.

A commercial agreement would be sought with cash-strapped LIAT (Antigua and Barbuda) to feed connections to destinations north and south of Antigua and Barbuda. This would provide much-needed connecting business to LIAT, currently in administration.

Asked by Barbuda Member of Parliament Trevor Walker whether the investor – identified only as Marvelous Mike Press Ltd. – had any prior experience in the airline industry, Browne reiterated that the company would wet-lease an aircraft. Accordingly, he explained that all that was required was for the investor to have the financial resources to lease the aircraft and pay supporting personnel. Browne said LIAT was providing technical support to the startup. He confirmed that Antigua Airways was duly registered in the island country.

Meanwhile, Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister's Office Lionel Hurst recently confirmed that plans for the official launch of Antigua Airways were being finalised. "I can offer you the assurance that we're going to see Antigua Airways touchdown at Antigua sometime within the next five weeks," he was cited by Antigua News Room.

"They are working out all kinds of logistics – not only baggage handling, fuel, permission to fly into Antiguan airspace and so on, they're working all that out, but you know when they leave Antigua, the plan is to fly on to Toronto before going back to the African continent, and so they must work that in as well," he explained.