The British Virgin Islands Airport Authority (BVIAA) has agreed to meet with disgruntled local operator VI Airlink (V6, Beef Island) to find a solution to the ongoing hangar dispute at Beef Island Airport which would be in the interests of both parties.

The authority said that it values VI Airlink as a member of the local aeronautical ecosystem and will work to address the airline’s concerns, according to reports from BVI News and Virgin Islands News Online.

“As a BVI-branded, BVI-owned and BVI-registered airlift provider, VI Airlink’s decades of service to the Territory and its role in creating a proud Virgin Islands legacy, cannot and will not be treated lightly. It is, therefore, the intent of the authority to convene a meeting shortly with the management of VI Airlink to explore options for lessening the challenges facing the local airline."

“The authority is confident that by working together, both parties can find a solution that works for all stakeholders. We remain, BVI Strong!” a press release stated.

The need for talks comes as a result of the BVIAA's decision to start building and renting hangar spaces to airlines, which upset incumbent V1 Airlink, which had a previous cheaper arrangement where it was able to lease or own land at the airport for up to 25 years.

The BVIAA needs to replace the hangar stock at the airport following the devastating Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 which completely destroyed the existing facilities. It is also explained that demand for hangar facilities “is beyond the pre-hurricanes level”.

The authority said that hangar rentals are one source of aeronautical revenue that most of the world's airports rely upon. “The BVIAA has been mandated to be prudent in the management of its operations so that it reduces the burden on the Treasury," said a BVIAA spokesperson. "Meeting this directive means having to develop and optimise aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenue streams.”

VI Airlink pilot, Neville Brathwaite Jr has claimed that the dearth of hangar space at the airport has resulted in the carrier's profitability being affected, particularly as it has to spend more on maintenance. He said: “A BVI legacy source of aviation since the 1970s is without a nest to rest its birds and has to take the maintenance of their large aircraft to Anguilla, Puerto Rico and Florida every month for services that VI Airlink was able to perform here in the BVI.”

Following the 2017 hurricanes, Braithwaite confirmed that the airline was asked to sign over their 25-year lease agreement by the previous NDP government because the hangars were going to be relocated. The airline was later offered a five-year lease instead.

VI Airlink has asked for a 50- to 99-year lease on the land for a maintenance facility which would allow the local carrier to grow. "We would like to be able to get our hangar up and running and be able to continue our business. If they want to rent, that is totally unacceptable to us, and we need to come to some sort of solution,” concluded Braithwaite.

According to the airline's website, it has a fleet of three aircraft - a single Cessna 402C, a Beech (twin turboprop) and a sole Beech 1900C. These aircraft connect to Virgin Atlantic (VS, London Heathrow) and British Airways (BA, London Heathrow) flights arriving in Antigua everyday except Mondays and Wednesdays. V1 Airlink also undertakes charter and medical evacuation flights.