October 21, 2016

LIAT to get $5 million boost before end of year

Before the end of this year, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) will pump more money into regional airline LIAT.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said yesterday that LIAT will receive XCD$5 million from its top three shareholders before the end of 2016, with SVG contributing $600,000.{{more}}

Speaking on Boom 106.9 FM yesterday, Gonsalves said Barbados will contribute $2.7 million and Antigua and Barbuda $1.8 million.

The Prime Minister’s announcement comes just six weeks after he had said if the service offered by the beleaguered airline did not significantly improve in one week, there would be no new injection of funds from SVG.

Gonsalves’ September 15 ultimatum came following a week of delayed and cancelled flights to SVG, during which Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Godfred Pompey wrote LIAT demanding “an urgent meeting in St Vincent and the Grenadines” to discuss “the lack of adequate service and poor scheduling” to this country.

During yesterday’s interview with Dwight “Bing” Joseph on Boom 106.9, Gonsalves stated that Liat’s service has improved since he gave the ultimatum. “I think that there are areas which have improved and that there are areas where we still have challenges, not just in St Vincent.”

The Prime Minister said the operational challenges faced by the airline include inadequate ground handling equipment and wind problems, both of which cause delays. Additionally, many cancellations are caused by problems with 18 per cent of the crew, he said.

Gonsalves said although the 20 aircraft they now use carry the same volume of persons as the previous 16, the airline spends a lot more in their movement.

He disclosed that included in the 10 best performing routes for Liat are: Antigua to Barbados, Antigua to Dominica, Barbados to Dominica, Barbados to Grenada, Barbados to St Lucia, Barbados to SVG, Trinidad to SVG, Tortola to St Martin, Antigua to St Kitts.

Dominica, which is also a shareholder of LIAT, will not be asked to contribute to the upcoming cash injection, seeing that they are still recovering from Tropical Storm Erica, which devastated that country last year. (AS)