Actions of LIAT’s pilots, management are frustrating – Chairman
November 8, 2013
Actions of LIAT’s pilots, management are frustrating – Chairman

The actions of LIAT’s pilots and management are frustrating the chairman of shareholders of the regional airline.{{more}}

Prime Minster Dr Ralph Gonsalves, speaking to SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday evening, said the persistent wrangling, which most recently left passengers around the region stranded on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, is unacceptable.

“So, the members of the public suffer, which I am terribly frustrated about, and it is unacceptable,” Gonsalves stated.

“They can’t continue, between management and the pilots, to be behaving in this particular manner.”

Service around the region is trickling back to normal, following a meeting Wednesday, between the Leeward Island Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) and the management of LIAT, to discuss what the Association, in a press conference, described as “surprise” and “unfortunate” actions taken by the management.

Members of the Association had gathered for an “emergency meeting” in Antigua and Barbuda on Tuesday, which resulted in scheduled flights being disrupted.

“According to our Association’s constitution, this emergency meeting required a specific percentage of pilots at a specific base to be in attendance,” the press release, written to travellers, explained.

“Due to numerous crews being out on overnights and others away on training in the United States and France, it was necessary to have all remaining crews in the respective bases attend. The crews were immediately released for duty at the end of the meeting.

“As a result of this, all departures from Antigua and Barbados were affected, and many of you suffered disruptions to your travel plans. For this, we sincerely apologize. Please be assured that our decisions to hold the emergency meeting was not taken lightly, but we had no other choice due to the serious nature of the impulsive and reckless actions of management.”

A LIAT press release, issued that day, indicated that 15 flights were affected, including nine cancellations. This was followed by further delays and cancellations on Wednesday.

Gonsalves gave SEARCHLIGHT some background into what led to the latest disruption in regional air travel.

“A pilot by the name of Mr [Neil] Cave, in an oral communication with the director of flights operation Captain [George] Arthurton, had a disagreement on a particular matter. As a consequence of that disagreement, Arthurton is alleged to have said to him that he is suspending him from the roster.

“Apparently Mr Cave took that to mean that he is suspending him, period.

“Then Cave was called to a meeting and he said that this is a disciplinary matter, so he is bringing his union leader, Captain [Carl] Burke.

“There was this meeting and apparently the meeting deteriorated into disorder.”

Gonsalves said during this meeting on Monday, Arthurton also suspended Burke, leading to the pilots’ “emergency meeting”.

He said that he had been advised that following the meeting between the management and the Association, a letter was written to Captain Burke about how he had reacted to Captain Arthurton, and until all areas were reviewed, there would be no suspensions.

“The management met and also informed the chairman of the board Dr [Jean] Holder, who is not in the best of health and it appears as though the director of flights operation [George Arthurton] acted precipitately in dealing with the matter of a suspension, because

that is a part of a process….”

Gonsalves said that he believes that the issue could have been avoided, had cooler heads prevailed.

“Now, in the cold light of mature judgement, this really required careful reflection… a lack of impetuous behaviour, more balanced judgement by all concerned….

“I’m not laying blame on anyone; that would come out from a particular process, but clearly the conflict which arose out of each of the cases ought to have been contained and that did not happen….”

“That’s not the way to run a mature organization,” Gonsalves said.

St Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda are teh major shareholders in LIAT.