November 16, 2007
LIAT promises to provide better service


Regional carrier LIAT Tuesday promised intra regional travellers better service on the eve of its final acquisition of former fierce rival, Caribbean Star.{{more}}

Chief Executive Officer Mark Darby told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that LIAT will be in possession of Caribbean Star’s five remaining aircraft by the end of this week and promised that a better travelling experience will be part of the rebranded carrier.

He said while Caribbean Star will close operations effective November 15, there will still be some administrative matters to be cleared up before the full acquisition could be effected.

“We are training some of their crews that have just come across and are taking on their aircraft this week, so really just before Christmas we should be up and running as a fully integrated airline,” he told CMC while attending the World Travel Market here.

Darby said delivering good customer service will be a priority of the Antigua-based airline, which has now emerged as the sole carrier servicing all intra regional routes.

“We have to put that investment in … we have to change the culture and the attitudes within the organisation to become one of a learning culture where we can reinforce this training message time after time so that it becomes second nature,” the CEO said.

He said even ahead of the merger, passengers using the airline to travel throughout the region would have noticed a drastic improvement in on-time departures.

“Already in the last few months we have been achieving 85 per cent punctuality which is at least where we need to be.

“The old days of 30-40 per cent on time is just not good enough and if we can get punctuality right just in itself it will transform the business, so that is our priority,” he added.

Darby said LIAT was also tackling the chronic problem of delayed baggage by introducing an additional flight to handle luggage during the traditional hectic Christmas season.

“We are trying to encourage people to travel light but nobody seems to be listening to us so that is something we have to work with so what we are doing this year is running one of our aircraft as part cargo running throughout the region on a scheduled basis through the airports we know we get an accumulation of baggage over the Christmas time.

“I urge everyone who might be travelling over Christmas, one, to travel light; two, whatever you do, don’t put your turkey in your luggage because it might not get there with you, and a rotten turkey in your suitcase does nobody any good for Christmas,” he added.

LIAT main shareholders – the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines – were initially seeking to merge operations with Caribbean Star but subsequently said they would instead seek to buy out the carrier.

The Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank and shareholder governments last month signed a loan agreement to provide LIAT with a US $60 million loan to restructure its operations and effect the buyout of Caribbean Star assets.

The package will take the form of three loans in the amounts of US$21.8 million, US$32.7 million and US$5.4 million to the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines respectively. (CMC)