BVI Airways is a start-up airline headquartered in the British Virgin Islands. They will soon offer flights to and from Miami, making the British Virgin Islands more accessible to American tourists.
BVI Airways representative Shaun Munro spoke with us about the company’s growth plans and the challenges associated with recruiting and hiring pilots.
Can you provide an overview of your company?
We’re an airline based in the British Virgin Islands. We’ve been in business since 2009 and suspended operations around 2013 in anticipation of launching a new service.
We will soon be offering flights between the British Virgin Islands and Miami on larger jets. We’re anticipating adding about five to six new jets in the next couple years. We’re going to be a gateway airline for people traveling from the United States to the Caribbean, particularly the British Virgin Islands.
Since 2013, we have received investment to expand operations, which we are currently in the process of doing, with a great team of experienced people who are helping us prepare.
Can you describe your role with BVI Airways?
I have two roles with BVI Airways. I’m a project manager and training manager. I’m also a pilot for Air Canada.
I’ve been a professional pilot for just over 10 years now. Before that, I was a project manager in the technology sector where I worked for investment banks like JPMorgan and international consulting firms like Accenture.
It’s very exciting to have a role where we are able to take an idea off the table and turn it into a profitable venture, where we have a tangible impact on the business and vacation community within the islands.
Can you describe your hiring process?
We’re currently hiring pilots and cabin crew. When we advertise a single pilot or cabin crew position, we received literally hundreds of applications from people located all around the world. We always include a series of application questions that help us learn more about each candidate’s qualifications and experience, so we can quickly filter out the ones who don’t meet the requirements. We ask what types of planes have they flown? How many hours have they flown? What types of licenses they have? From there, we send an automated “thank you for applying. You don’t meet the requirements” email to the rejected applicants and start focusing on the qualified candidates.
The application questions also help us learn a little about the candidate’s personality before we interview them. We do Skype interviews with the top candidates and have a feel for who they are before the call even starts.
After the Skype interviews, we’re able to narrow down to the best candidates who are most suited for the role. From there, we invite them to an in-person interview and record the results of each one. Offers are then made and the acceptance or rejection details are also recorded. Aviation is a highly-regulated industry so every single piece of information must be recorded in case of an audit further down the road.
Being a start-up airline, we’re working seven days a week. Time is of the essence so we can’t spend a great deal of time screening hundreds of resumes and candidates. We have to have an efficient system that is adaptable to our hiring process for finding the best pilots and flight attendants for our company in a timely manner.
Aviation recruiting is also very expensive, especially when it comes to training pilots. We’ve hired 10 pilots and over 15 flight attendants and have spent substantial amounts of money training these hires on our specific operations and aircrafts. They’re already a skilled flight crew but we have to train them on our particular airplane and legally mandated standard operating procedures, which are known as SOPs in our industry.
We have to be sure we hire the right people who are going to stay with us. We invested a significant sum in these 25 flight crew and that’s before they even step into the plane and fly.
Beyond relevant skills and experience, what do you value in the pilots you hire?
A pilot has to be a lot of things. They have to be a manager and skillful when it comes to operating a plane. They have to be knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the plane and the operation. They also have to be knowledgeable about legal requirements and international operations across multiple borders.
As with most jobs, we also need to make sure they are a good person to work with. They’re going to be the cockpit for hours at a time with one other person so they need to be a pleasant yet effective leader. It’s known as Crew Resource Management, or CRM, in the aviation industry and is a big factor in the pilots we hire.
A great pilot is an easygoing perfectionist, if there is such a thing.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I’m primarily a pilot. I used to work in consulting but now I do that on the side.
I love flying. In some sense, my office involves oceans and thunderstorms and the best views in the world. From the consulting and business side, it’s exciting to build a new company. We’re taking it from an idea to the point where we’re happily flying thousands of people a year into the British Virgin Islands. It’s going to improve tourism in the British Virgin Islands, bring in money, increase local opportunities and give people the opportunity to visit.
Aviation is a challenging industry and it takes a long time and a lot of hard work to start a new airline. I find it very satisfying to see our hard work pay off and this idea come to fruition.