(KINGSTOWN) – The Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), Dr Ralph Gonsalves, has criticized LIAT (1974) LTD. (LI, Antigua) management for its failure to shift the airline’s operational hub from Antigua to Bridgetown in Barbados among other issues including poor service to his country.
“The decision to shift the base has not been rescinded but the management has not carried out the decision and I would like to find out why,” he told the Barbados Today newspaper.
The highly contentious switch was approved by the carrier’s Caribbean shareholders – Antigua & Barbuda, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Barbados, and Dominica – in February last year as part of a restructuring drive aimed at stemming losses by cutting overheads and improving revenue inflows.
However, divisions soon emerged after the government of Antigua and Barbuda said any such change would have drastic consequences for its economy through job losses in particular. At the time Antiguan Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, said the island state would do everything in its power to defend its interests.
The ch-aviation capacity database shows the bulk of LIATs weekly seat distribution currently falls to Bridgetown with 6,496 seats (20.03%). Antigua is second with 4,198 (12.94%), St. Vincent is third with 2,912 (8.98%) while Basseterre in St Kitts & Nevis and St. Lucia Vigie are joint fourth with 2,436 seats (7.51%) each.
However, St. Vincent is the only island without service from another carrier and no international airport and depends solely on LIAT for major airlift capacity.
The Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves and his delegation held discussions with the management of LIAT headed by the Acting CEO, Ms. Julie Reifer-Jones on Wednesday, 14th September, 2016 to resolve LIAT’s deteriorating service experienced by Vincentians.
A number of challenges including; the lack of information on delays and cancellation of flights to the travelling public since the central mandate of LIAT is to provide the best possible service with the equipment available.
It was reinforced that the Company must seek to carry out the mandate of the Shareholder Government and the Board of Directors in that the decisions made by shareholders are not fully implemented by the management of LIAT.
It was stated that there will be no new injection of funds from St. Vincent and the Grenadines until the service is significantly improved.
The main outcomes of the meeting are that the management of LIAT has agreed to review the schedule of flights in and out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines within one week to better serve the travelling public and review the turnaround time of Aircrafts with a view to reducing the delays in operation of flights. T
his is especially crucial as the schedule of LIAT is extremely interconnected with high aircraft utilization so that any delay inevitable has a ripple effect throughout the entire network.
LIAT will also consider a return of the direct Puerto Rico (TJSJ) – SVG (TVSV) flight.
The meeting was also informed that a tenth aircraft an ATR 72-600 will be added to LIAT’s Fleet by the end of October, early November, 2016. This will ease the demand for additional seats throughout LIAT’s network. LIAT currently has nine (9) ATR aircraft.
At the beginning of the fleet renewal exercise it was supposed to acquire 12 new aircraft to replace a peak fleet of 18 De Havilland Dash-8 aircraft.
Discussions were also held with the management of the Argyle International Airport (AIA) that is currently under construction in preparation for operations out of Argyle.