March 22, 2011
Gonsalves: Liat to broaden its horizon

Passengers of LIAT may be flying in newer model aircraft soon, as well as to new destinations.{{more}}

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, at a press conference on Wednesday, March 16, disclosed that LIAT’s management has been given the go-ahead to explore the possibility of upgrading its planes and expanding the fleet beyond DASH 8s.

“We have on the fleet DASH 8-100 and 300 and those aircraft are no longer in production. We are looking at other aircraft from the same Bombardier Group… (for example) the ATR 42 and ATR 72,” said Gonsalves.

He said that maintenance cost is also a factor in the quest for a fleet upgrade.

“LIAT has a number of planes which take quite a lot of money to keep in good condition,” said Gonsalves.

He said some of the aging aircraft require as much as US $1.2 million a year to maintain.

The issue of acquiring regional jets to service some familiar, and other uncharted territories are being considered by the shareholders.

Gonsalves noted that the management is looking at the Embraer E170 and E190 jets , which may serve Latin America and other areas which are not currently served by any Caribbean carriers.

He indicated that the necessary consultations will be held prior to any decisions being made. He mentioned that the actions being taken are to show that the regional airline is here to stay.

“In any event, a study has to be done of the routes to see that they are viable; but I think this package of decisions is very instructive as to the commitment of the three shareholders (St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados) to keeping LIAT in the skies, and to make sure that we can expand the service to Fort Lauderdale and perhaps New York,” said Gonsalves.

“Now, this is a matter which would fit neatly into our expansion in terms of airport development at Argyle International Airport,” Gonsalves added.

He further stated that the possibility of co-operation and collaboration with Caribbean Airlines is on the agenda, which may begin with the sharing of services, if it is to be considered.