October 13, 2006

LIAT, Caribbean Star talks get green light

The Texas billionaire chairman of Caribbean Star Airlines, Allen Stanford, has assured the Caribbean that he is committed to a successful intra-regional air transport network.

Breaking his silence on the proposed merger with his fierce rival, LIAT which is owned by Caribbean governments, Stanford said he should be given the opportunity to prove his commitment.{{more}}

“This venture gives me yet another opportunity to demonstrate my commitment to something of value to this region, as I did recently with the Stanford 20/20 cricket tournament. I am therefore willing to work for its successful conclusion, mindful of the challenges which are always to be expected when the road to future prosperity involves significant change,” he said in a joint news release with Chairman of LIAT Dr Jean Holder.

As the LIAT Board of Directors gave the green light to the Executive Management to start formal talks with Caribbean Star’s management, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines made it clear that there will be no “giveaway deals” over the financially strapped regional airline, LIAT, which is now hunting for some $24 million for an immediate rescue plan.

Dr Gonsalves has responsibility for air transport in the CARICOM quasi-Cabinet.

Both sides are looking for a win-win situation and Dr Holder acknowledged that the road ahead is not smooth.

He said that chasms cannot be crossed by little jumps and this commitment by former fierce competitors to work together to transform the landscape of Caribbean air transport, represents the kind of bold and creative approach needed to make a difference in the area of regional air transport which to date has been characterised by significant failure.

“We look forward to our executive management commencing the negotiations, which we hope will be crowned with success,’ said Dr Holder.

Plans to cut LIAT staff have been put on hold but the airline would continue to scale back on the number of flights to several destinations in an effort to arrest USD $180 million in debt.

Caribbean Star has been repositioning by replacing the Dash 8-100 series with new and larger versions while its sister airline, Caribbean Sun, has cut back on some northern Caribbean routes.