Prime Minister of Barbados and former chair of the Caribbean Community CARICOM, Mia Mottley has revealed that six air carriers have expressed interest in taking over LIAT’s travel routes, in wake of the carrier’s current financial challenge. They are SVG Air, One Caribbean Ltd, Caribbean Airlines, InterCaribbean Airways, Silver Airways, and Air Antilles.
The issue of regional air travel was discussed as St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves assumed chairmanship of CARICOM from outgoing chair Mottley during a virtual handing over ceremony on Friday. Mottley explained that the announcement was made as citizens within the region had expressed concern over the absence of interregional transport, as LIAT would now be liquidated. Noting that it was not an easy decision, Mottley added: “LIAT has been for us, a critical part of our history: it has allowed Caribbean people to move, but there also is a time when those instruments that served us well in the past may not be the right instruments for us going forward.” She explained that if the board of directors did not liquidate the insolvent airline they would then be guilty of fraudulent trading.
However, Mottley said the CARICOM stakeholders were satisfied that the six airlines could more than fill the immediate gap, given the reduced travel due to the COVID-19 measures implemented to contain the spread of the virus. She said CARICOM hopes to work with the six airlines and other private sector players who also expressed interest in working either on their own or with some of the existing players to fill the gap in airlift.
According to the Barbadian Prime Minister, working together with private sector players needs to be done as governments have to now use their funds to deal with health, water and transportation expenditure as well as salvaging a vulnerable tourism industry. Mottley added that the CARICOM heads of government have agreed to assist the airline industry in the best ways they can. Gonsalves assured that air transport in lieu of LIAT would be soon implemented. “I believe we are going to be able to provide, in a very short time, a sufficiency of regional transport to serve the sub-region – to serve ourselves safely, reliably, sustainably and reasonably priced,” Gonsalves said. He said the challenge placed upon the Caribbean regarding regional air transportation is one that the region has to solve. Gonsalves had said LIAT did not have significant assets to satisfy its liabilities.
LIAT’s fleet consists of 10 ATR aircraft: five ATR 42-600s and five ATR 72-600s, with LIAT only owning three of them. One of the largest liabilities LIAT has is an EC $29 million severance payment it contractually owes to its’ employees.
LIAT Ltd, previously known as Leeward Islands Air Transport or LIAT, is headquartered in Antigua.
~ Trinidad Guardian ~