October 28, 2016
LIAT flight delays, cancellations due to shortage of crew – LIALPA

The flight delays and cancellations experienced by passengers of LIAT are caused by shortage of crew, poor working conditions and incompetent management.

This is the contention of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA), which, in a press release issued Sunday, took issue with recent remarks by Chair of the Shareholder Governments Dr Ralph Gonsalves and acting CEO Julie Reifer-Jones that on record, the company has enough cabin crew to fly LIAT’s schedule and that there was a high level of reported sickness from crew.{{more}}

Calling the statements “erroneous and totally false,” LIALPA said LIAT is “woefully short of adequate crew to properly execute LIAT”s current flight schedule,” and that over the last two years, LIAT has not employed a single pilot, even though 31 pilots have left the company either because of retirement or resignation.

According to the release, 19 of the pilots who left had been trained to fly the newly acquired ATR type aircraft, resulting in a loss to the company of approximately EC$1.9 million, which had been invested in training those 19 pilots.

“Is this as a result of poor management? Now, after suffering such losses, and as the winter schedule is prepared, Management in a last minute panic is employing additional crew, but this is already too late, as it takes at least 3-4 months for a new pilot to train before they can actually fly with passengers. So any new crew members employed will not be able to fly during the upcoming hectic Xmas/New Year Season. Again, those upcoming delays and cancellations are to be laid squarely and solely at the feet of management,” the release said.

LIALPA also alleges that LIAT’s management continues to schedule flights, even though they are aware that there is no crew available for the scheduled flight and it would inevitably be cancelled.

“This then leads to Management asking the skeletal remaining Crew to double their workload, and to work at maximum time with minimum rest. This is not a feasible model and it is just a matter of time before this operation model breaks down and flight cancellations increase even further. Flight cancellations are also occurring because LIAT has no Reserve Coverage on a daily basis and so a single pilot in a single island has to cover the operational model throughout the network. This is ludicrous and represents poor planning and incompetent management,” the release said.

LIALPA also categorically stated that there is no abnormal sickness occurring among crew members.

“Presently, if a single pilot gets the flu and cannot fly, the sickness of that one pilot can cause several flights to be cancelled. What effectively run Airline pleads on a regular basis with Pilots, to work on their off days and personal vacation days?

“After several months of being silent, and trying our utmost to go above and beyond the call of duty, we are now bringing to the attention of the traveling public that some Pilots have fallen ill due to due to extremely high and unbearable cockpit temperatures, and also in part, due to the usage of chemicals/ pesticides to address an existing roach infestation in cockpits and passenger cabins.”

The release also states that the management of LIAT is yet to recognize that the profit the company realized in the first half of the year would not have been achieved if the pilots did not make the sacrifice of “working 10-11 hours per day, and without the company scheduling meal breaks.”

The pilots’ association also says the company’s projected loss of EC$9.2 million for the year was totally avoidable and blame for this was placed squarely at the feet of management.

“LIAT lost millions of dollars when it sold its Dash 8 airplanes. When there was a hangar fire in Antigua, records of the airplanes were destroyed and were not backed up. Therefore, the airplanes were depreciated and sold under value because even though LIAT spent millions of dollars putting in new (replacement) parts in the airplanes, they could not prove that the parts were new, nor could they prove how much flying time (usage) the airplanes did, all due to reckless negligence in basic record keeping. No one has been held accountable to date,” the release said.

LIALPA also asks if the removal of flights from certain profitable routes led to these projected losses for the company and if the projected losses due to political interference in the airline’s destination and flight schedule planning.

“LIALPA as always continues to reassure the travelling public, that we are committed and dedicated to serving you at the highest professional levels. We want to avoid flight delays and especially cancellations, but we simply cannot do so, due to a shortage of crew, poor working conditions and an incompetent management team,” the release ended.