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Airline '90% Complete' On $4.5-$5m Project

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

WESTERN Air chief executive, Rex Rolle, said yesterday that construction on the airline's new terminal and maintenance facility in Freeport is "about 90 per cent" complete, telling Tribune Business the carrier's move to move its new headquarters will significantly cut its yearly maintenance spend.

Western Air's headquarters and main maintenance is currently based in San Andros. Mr Rolle told Tribune Business yesterday: "Andros is very remote. The company now spends in excess of $80,000 just to bring parts in through charters or our own aircraft.

"Andros only has one boat a week, or one every two weeks, whereas we would be able to have a boat every day from Florida to Freeport. We would not only able to carry a large inventory of expensive parts, but we would be able get them overnight. We are not able to do that at Andros. I think the sums we spent on the new facility are very much worth it looking at the logistics. Just ferrying an aircraft here for maintenance last year, I think we spent in excess of a quarter of a million dollars."

Mr Rolle said that when the Freeport facility is completed, the company would have spent $4.5 to $5 million.

He added that the new Freeport facility is expected to open in January. "It's about 90 per cent complete," Mr Rolle said. "We just have some interior work to complete, and to put the black top on the customer parking and the aircraft parking. That was kind of delayed for about two weeks due to the rain.

"Pretty much we were trying to do a December date for opening, but I think we may have to push it back to January due to some infrastructure that the airport had to put in. We are kind of ahead of the airport. They are putting in a new road, and also water and some other utilities. We are kind of going to be on the airport's time, so we are negotiating with them to put the road through so the public can access this property without a hassle."

Mr Rolle added: "Freeport is a duplication of what we have here in San Andros, except that Freeport is quite larger because we intend to do more things from there. We plan to relocate the company headquarters and maintenance facility up there, just based generally on logistics. We cannot control the cost of fuel, but in the meantime we will cut costs where we can."

Speaking to the airline's plans to expand its routes internationally, Mr Rolle said the company's number one priority is on completing its facilities, with the view of commencing its planned international flights in the second quarter of 2012.

Mr Rolle said: "We will concentrate on getting in to Freeport. We will hopefully bring on some of those international routes in the second quarter of next year, but we would definitely want to concentrate on getting this facility up and running/

"It's more of priority for the company because of the cost savings. To develop these routes and route expansion is expensive, so what we would like to do is to concentrate on having a stronger base for the company to continue to grow. We will be there in time for the summer to get these US fights going. The US market is not as lucrative as it was, say six months ago, because of the different foreign airlines that are coming in."

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