Sunday, March 9, 2014

LIAT threatens to cut routes unless it gets support

On the eve of a CARICOM conference in St Vincent at which host PM Ralph Gonzalves would take over the chairmanship of the regional integration body from PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar, shareholders of the LIAT are raising important concerns about the viability of regional air transportation.

The regional airline, LIAT, is threatening to stop servicing unprofitable routes in the island chain unless it gets support from the governments in the affected states.

LIAT Chairman Jean Holder told reporters in Barbados on Thursday the airline doesn't want to take the harsh route, but that might become inevitable unless there is some commitment from regional politicians.

"We have met with a number of governments and Prime Ministers," he said. "We have expressed to them that we will have no other option but to cut the service,” he added, noting that "we need to do as we say that we will do. That may after all be more effective" than the persuasion route.

“We’ll have to take a very hard look at our current schedules and the profitability of our current routes. We have brought in some experts to assist us in looking more deeply into the route analysis issues, but it is clear that LIAT cannot continue to provide essential social services to 21 countries in the Caribbean on a daily basis, offering close to 1,000 flights weekly, and only four countries put any funds into this operation,” said Holder.

Holder said this would mean a revised routing system to eliminate what he called "social routes", which cut into the airline's profitability.

LIAT's major shareholders are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Gonsalves, who is also chairman of shareholder governments, told reporters he is pushing his counterparts to come on board and support LIAT, particularly those from countries that benefit considerably from the operations of the airline. 

He stated that he is getting the required commitment even though the islands have faced tough economic times since 2008. However the PM said some countries have been getting a "free ride" for too long. He didn't name any country.
Caribbean Airlines' ATR 72-600, which is used for short haul flights
Trinidad and Tobago's national carrier, Caribbean Airlines (CAL), which owns an 85 per cent stake in Air Jamaica, is considering flying to some of the islands serviced by LIAT. Such competition could further hurt the struggling airline since CAL would have the advantage of a more modern fleet of aircraft and support from the government.

Persad-Bissessar and her delegation will fly into St Vincent Monday on a Caribbean Airlines plane. 

Gonzalves said recently that CAL is planning to make his island one of the new destinations for the airline. No one has any proof of that but CAL has said it is looking into the feasibility of getting new routes for its fleet of ATR planes.

CAL Communications Manager Clint Williams, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) Caribbean Airlines is "continuously evaluating new routes and new opportunities." He added, "Currently with our new business plan we are evaluating all the flying on our fleets including our ATR fleets."

Read related story: St Vincent and the Grenadines may be next stop for Caribbean Airlines

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai