‘SVG deserves better from LIAT’
December 7, 2007
‘SVG deserves better from LIAT’

St Vincent and the Grenadines deserves much better treatment from LIAT, after standing heroically with the airline during its “dark days.”

This is what this country’s Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves told LIAT’s top brass during a meeting here last Monday.{{more}}

“I made the simple point that over the dark days from 2001 onward, the role of the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines can be labeled as heroic, in the resources that we have made available to LIAT and the leadership role that we have played,” Dr Gonsalves said.

The Prime Minister said that the Vincentian public expected that there should be recompense in “a much higher quality service.”

He was speaking at a press briefing following the meeting, which Dr Gonsalves said he initiated.

He said that he made it clear to LIAT’s Board chairman Dr Jean Holder and its CEO Mark Darby that LIAT is critical to St Vincent and the Grenadines, moreso because this country doesn’t yet have an international airport.

Meanwhile, the LIAT Chairman has placed a lot of the blame for LIAT’s shortfall in service around the region on the backs of contracted handlers at the various destinations.

Saying that complaints about poor customer service and outright rudeness by handlers have irritated LIAT’s management, Dr Holder said that decisive action will be taken if the situation does not improve.

“LIAT has to take very decisive action in the near future, if those services continue to fall beneath the standard that we have set for ourselves and our customers,” Dr Holder said.

He, however, noted that while many of the problems the airline faces should not be placed on LIAT’s shoulders, excuses cannot be made.

Dr Holder said that air transportation is the life blood of the region, and now that LIAT is responsible for moving 1.5 million persons annually, instead of the 750,000 that it did before, the airline’s responsibility is increased.

He said that the fact that the airline has recovered, while it is commendable, means that the work has really now started.

“We now have the responsibility for the delivering of services to the region, and there is no where to hide. There is no one else to blame, so our work has increased,” Dr Holder said.

Another source of headache for the LIAT management has been what CEO Mark Darby described as the “trauma” associated with the transferring of assets and staff of Caribbean Star to LIAT.

Darby said that LIAT’s problems have been caused by the unforeseen length of time that it has taken to get the Caribbean Star fleet transferred to LIAT, after Caribbean Star ceased operations.

He said that people need to understand that the acquisition of Caribbean Star was not a straightforward exercise. The process, Darby said, has been long and drawn out. It was expected to be completed since September. Caribbean Star ceased operations on November 15.

Darby explained that because the airline transfer was not completed on time, the staff transfer couldn’t be done, which further complicated the issue.

Darby highlighted complications with transferring the Caribbean Star crew; Caribbean Star pilots have to be retrained before they can mix with LIAT Pilots.

“It is not to say Caribbean Star standards were in any way unsafe; they were different.”

“We have to make sure that if a LIAT pilot is sitting in the cockpit with a former Caribbean Star Pilot that they both know what to do when something goes wrong,” Darby said.

Starting today, however, LIAT will bring on board seven contract crews from Caribbean Star, who will work together on flights, so that the short term difficulty could be overcome.