Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 8th 2015 Contents 4SBG | COVER STORY
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MARCH 8 • 2015
After an absence of a year,
Virgin Atlantic Airways
returns to Tobago on
March 29, kicking off a
new year-round service
from London s Gatwick
Trinidad-born Andre Bello, the airline s
commercial manager, Caribbean, said positive
indicators for growth in Tobago and other
Caribbean routes were among developments
that prompted Virgin s return. Another is a
seven point shift in the UK GDP which should
result in more British visitors travelling to the
Bello told the Sunday BG Virgin Atlantic
pulled out of Tobago last March but had a
change of heart following an "opening in the
market" and strong improvements in products
and services on the island. He said the resump-
tion of flights to the ANR Robinson Interna-
tional Airport fits in with the airline s overall
In addition, the airline, which operates reg-
ular flights to Cuba, Jamaica, Antigua, St Lucia,
Grenada and Barbados, has enjoyed positive
growth in the region.
"The Caribbean routes in both directions
has always performed well for Virgin Atlantic,"
This time around, the airline will be oper-
ating more flights, including a summer sched-
ule between March and October, with depar-
tures from Gatwick on Sunday mornings and
an overnight return flight leaving Tobago on
Sunday evenings. These will increase to twice
weekly departures between October and March
when flights will depart from Gatwick on
Tuesday and Saturday mornings and from
Tobago on Tuesday and Saturday evenings,
landing in London the following morning.
The Tobago flights will operate on the A330-
300 aircraft the carrier uses on long-haul
leisure routes, with more upper class seats to
meet the high demand for luxury leisure and
business travel. It is one of the newest aircraft
in the Virgin Atlantic fleet, featuring touch-
screen Panasonic in-flight entertainment sys-
tems, mobile connectivity throughout the air-
craft and improved fuel efficiency.
Underscoring Virgin Atlantic s commitment
to a quality passenger experience, Bello noted
that the airline has "the flexibility to adjust
our capacity to meet seasonal demand" and
is commited to reducing costs, as well as the
airline s carbon footprint, by using more effi-
He said: "We re not prepared to accept the
trend of air travel becoming more regular and
mediocre. We will challenge ourselves to make
any experience with Virgin just that little bit
more special, more exciting, more magical."
With its direct flight to Tobago, the carrier
re-enters a market that is currently being
served only by British Airways with a twice
weekly service via Antigua on Mondays and
Fridays and Golden Caribbean s weekly non-
stop charter flights operated by Monarch Air-
lines which will be terminated at the end of
April. Late last year, that airline took a strategic
decision to stop making long-haul flights
across the Atlantic.
Last November, when plans for Virgin
Atlantic s return were first confirmed by Tobago
House of Assembly (THA) Tourism Secretary
Tracy Davidson-Celestine, she said agreement
was quickly reached after the airline approached
authorities on the island.
"This is a significant endorsement of all the
hard work we have put into building the des-
tination and helping improve our product,"
she said, adding that the agreement is valid
for three years from the flight start date.
To coincide with carrier s return, transat-
lantic tour operator Virgin Holidays, a company
within the Virgin Group, has expanded its
programme to Tobago.
Bello said the Caribbean remains Virgin
Atlantic s strongest route in terms of profit.
In the last ten years Virgin has brought 7.3
million people to the Caribbean and before
the service was briefly terminated last year,
had been flying to Tobago since May 2003.
"The Caribbean has always been a very
important part, not just to Sir Richard himself,
but it has always been a very comfortable area
for the airline. Our Virgin Holidays Division
which really drives a lot of our tourism business
to this market, has always put the emphasis
on the Caribbean," he said
"We have been strong we will continue to
be strong, we have invested in the Caribbean."
Sir Richard refers to Richard Branson, the
founder and chairman of Virgin Atlantic.
About Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited, headquar-
tered in Crawley, West Sussex, England, was
established in 1984 as British Atlantic Airways,
but the name was later changed to Virgin
Atlantic Airways. The airline made its maiden
flight from Gatwick to Newark Liberty Inter-
national Airport in New Jersey, United States,
on 22 June 1984. The airline along with Virgin
Holidays is controlled by a holding company
Virgin Atlantic Limited which is owned 51 per
cent by the Virgin Group and 49 per cent by
Delta Air Lines.
Virgin Atlantic uses a mixed fleet of Airbus
and Boeing wide-body jets and operates
between the United Kingdom, North America,
the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East and
Asia from London Heathrow and Gatwick.
From scientist to airline executive
Originally from St Ann s, Trinidad, Andre
Bello, 47, joined Virgin Atlantic in 2012 as
Caribbean s Sales, Marketing and Communi-
cations Manager and was promoted to lead
the Caribbean team last year. He is the first
non-UK person to hold that senior position.
He is based in Bridgetown, Barbados, and is
a key member of the airline s North America
Although his career spans more than 25
years in sales and marketing, Bello early aca-
demic pursuits had been in the scientific field.
After completing his secondary education at
St Mary s College, Belmont, Bello did his first
degree in zoology. He worked for a while as
a medical representative with Novartis and
was pursuing an MA in parisitology but later
switched to another major, successfully com-
pleting his MBA.
Bello joined the advertising industry as an
account executive with Lonsdale Saatchi &
Saatchi in Port-of-Spain. He then moved on
to the the Maritime Group where he was gen-
eral manger of marketing before relocating to
Jamaica where he was marketing manager for
Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB).
In addition to being an airline executive,
Bello is a keynote speaker, corporate trainer
and author, whose first book, The Sword and
The Spirit, is a fable written to teach the skills
he learned at a Programme on Negotiation
(PON) at Harvard Law School.
Virgin resumes flights on March 29
Andre Bello, Virgin Atlantic
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