PM calls on other governments to invest in LIAT
November 1, 2016
PM calls on other governments to invest in LIAT

The Chair of the shareholder governments of LIAT is not interested in there being a war between management and crew of the airline; what he wants is for other Caribbean governments to put equity into the airline.

Dr Ralph Gonsalves, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT last week, made the assertion, while responding to allegations about the airline made by the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) in a release issued on October 23.{{more}}

The pilots’ association had said, among other things, that LIAT was “woefully short of adequate crew to properly execute LIAT’s current flight schedule,” and that management had been asking the “skeletal remaining Crew to double their workload, and to work at maximum time with minimum rest.”

Gonsalves said if what the pilots were saying about being asked to work maximum time on minimum rest was true, that was indeed worrying and had not been drawn to the attention of the Board of Shareholders.

“The pilots are correct in saying that overwhelmingly they are hard-working, which I accept. But if the data are wrong about the extent of illness of pilots and cancellations due to that, that error would have come to us from the management, so the management would have to speak to that issue which is contested by the pilots,” Gonsalves said.

“What I am hoping is that in the new dispensation that we will have even better communication betwewen the pilots, and other crew and the management.”

LIAT’s acting CEO, Julie Reifer-Jones, in a release issued last week, however, maintained that the company has sufficient crew to operate the current schedule.

“The company currently employs 104 pilots and 76 cabin crew to fly a schedule which is based on a reduced fleet of 9 ATR’s. Our pilots fly an average of 42 hrs over a period of 28 days, well within regulatory requirements, and they are guaranteed payment for a minimum of 55 flight hours,” Reifer-Jones said.

Gonsalves said the problem with LIAT is that the airline does not have sufficient resources to do what it needs to do.

“I have no interest in there being a war between management and pilots or management and any crew. What I want to see is the best run airline within the parameters which we have. One fundamental problem is that LIAT is trying to do a lot more than the assets which they have could reasonably provide, which is why they have to cut out some of the non-profitable routes. Other governments should bring money into the thing…,” he said.

He said LIAT needs more planes, more resources, but does not need any more loans. He called on the governments of other countries serviced by LIAT to put money up front into the airline. He said St Vincent and the Grenadines had paid $300,000 to the airline two weeks ago and before the end of the year another $300,000 would be contributed.

Antigua and Barbuda will be contributing $1.8 million and Barbados another $2.7 million. Dominica was not asked to contribute this time, because they were still recovering from the effects of a recent storm, Gonsalves said.

The Chair of Shareholders said he had personally asked the prime ministers of Grenada, St Lucia and St Kitts/Nevis to invest in the airline, to no avail.

“Yes, I personally asked them. The previous prime ministers and the current ones.”

He said as recently as last week, he had spoke to the prime minister of St Lucia about contributing money.