Seeking to make money out of the new Prohibition laws by flying thirsty people from Florida to Cuba where drinking is legal, a number of ex-U. S. servicemen, including Albert Tilt, Alvin W. McKaig, and Geoffrey
H. Bonnell, establish an air service at Key West in the fall of 1919.
The start-up costs involved in obtaining aircraft and spare parts soon drain the little group’s meager resources. Unable to secure bank loans, they are forced to go public to raise a needed $200,000 in capitalization. On November 1, the enterprise is registered as Florida West Indies Airways under Cuban law; the same day, it undertakes the first American international scheduled passenger air service from Key West to Havana.
Due to recession, the subscription does not materialize and in the summer of 1920 the carrier approaches the U. S. Post Office. On August 25 it receives the nation’s first airmail subsidy for a Foreign Air Mail route (FAM-1), a one-year contract which will provide $20,000 plus $1.68 for every letter transported.
The subscription drive is now resumed in hopes of obtaining sufficient capital to allow inauguration of the route on October 15. Few sign up and at last, in early October, Inglis M. Uppercue, owner of Aeroma-rine Airways, steps forward and purchases Florida West Indies, merging it to form Aeromarine West Indies Airways as a subsidiary division of his northern operation.
FLORIDAWESTINTERNATIONALAIRWAYS: 7500 North West 25th Street, Suite 237, Miami, Florida 33122, United States; Phone (305) 591-9161; Fax (305) 591-2385; Code RF; Year Founded 1995. Florida West Airlines is purchased out of bankruptcy at Miami for $3.5 million in cash on July 1 (effective July 12), 1995 by the new entity, Florida West International Airways. Chairman/President/CEO Richard
L. Haberly, who has led the purchase consortium, retains his posts, with Richard Hanson as technical director and ex-president John Maloney as vice president-operations. Fast Air, Ltda. and Alexander Cargo acquire minority shareholding. Marketing alliances are entered into or renewed with Atlas Air, LanChile, S. A., Ladeco (Linea Aerea del Cobra, S. A.), Fast Air, Ltda., and Tower Air.
Scheduled destinations include Bogota, Buenos Aires, Managua, Panama City, and San Jose, while nonscheduled flights are made to various markets in the Caribbean, South America, the Mideast, and Europe. These are visited by one each Douglas DC-8-61F and Boeing 707-351C and B-707-321C. Three B-727-222s acquired by the predecessor organization from United Airlines, together with two DC-8-32s, are leased out.
The 75 employees and 4 aircraft operate only 53.98 million FTKs, a 52.5% decline over the previous year. Costs exceed operating income and there are losses: $1.74 million (operating) and $1.78 million (net).
Florida West continues to fly in 1996, even as its employee population is cut to 20 and its fleet reduced to 1 each leased Douglas DC-8-61F and Boeing 707-351C.
Traffic begins to recover, growing 11.9% to 52.73 million FTKs. Still, there are fiscal losses: $1.4 million (operating) and $1.52 million (net). Revenues skyrocket 84% to $16.23 million, but expenses are up 67% to $17.62 million. Both of the bottom line loss figures “improve” as the operating loss totals $1.4 million and a net $1.52-million downturn is suffered.
The employee population in January 1997 stands at 104. Both chartered aircraft remain in service.
In July, a scheduled all-cargo route is sold to Federal Express (FedEx).
Freight skyrockets an almost unbelievable 277.4% to 196.6 million FTKs, while operating revenues reach $83.97 million. With expenses of $83.01 million, the previous year’s operating loss is turned into a $961,000 gain. The net loss becomes a $512,000 profit.
The company’s weekly service from Miami to Sao Paulo becomes daily during the spring of 1998. In addition, plans are announced for the inauguration of new services to Venezuela. During these 12 months, cargo traffic moves ahead by 11.2% to 272.01 million FTKs. Revenues surge 56.3% to $131.2 million, while costs are $132.19 million. The operating loss is $907,000, while the net gain triples to $1.5 million.
Freight traffic plunges 56.4% to 118.53 million FTKs. Annual revenues reach nearly $40 million.
Only 20 workers are employed at the beginning of 2000. A DC-8-71F is placed into service on July 15.
At the end of October, Eagle Global Logistics, the new majority owner of Miami Air International, enters into a new strategic all-cargo alliance with LanChile Airlines, S. A., as well as the freight lines it controls, Fast Air Chile, S. A., MasAir (Aerotransportes Mas de Cargo, S. A. de C. V), and Florida West.
LanChile Airlines, S. A. formally purchases a 25% stake in the carrier on December 22 for $900,000. The move is made to strengthen the Chilean carrier’s cargo position in South Florida.
FLORIDA WINGS: 5500 NW 21st Terrace, Hangar 12, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33309, United States; Phone (954) 776-0278; Fax (954) 491-3642; Year Founded 1977. Florida Wings is established as an FBO and charter operation at Fort Lauderdale Airport in 1977. Flight operations are duly inaugurated and, by 2000, Director of Operations Paul Warsaw oversees the work of four full - and two part-time pilots flying a Gates Learjet 55 Longhorn and a Eurocopter As-350 A-Star.