Antigua calls for LIAT plan to be put on hold
Recently announced plans to restructure the financially ailing LIAT may have grounded to a halt following the intervention of Antigua and Barbuda – the second largest shareholder government in the regional carrier.
The country’s prime minister Gaston Browne has requested that no further action be taken on the decision last Friday to send home 180 workers this year, and to shift the airline’s fleet base from Antigua to Barbados.
In a letter penned to St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the chairman of the shareholder governments, Browne said his Cabinet needed time to discuss the matter. He did not indicate how soon the meeting would
“You will appreciate that the government of Antigua and Barbuda has made – and continues to make – a heavy investment in LIAT, and there are consequences for the economy and the well-being of the people of Antigua and Barbuda arising from decisions pertaining to the airline,” he said in the missive that was made public earlier today.
Browne did not attend last Friday’s meeting at the Hilton Barbados but was represented by his Minister of Aviation Robin Yearwood.
In his absence, Barbados’ Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, along with Gonsalves and his Dominican counterpart Roosevelt Skerrit had all endorsed the plan.
“We expect to see a turnaround in LIAT’s fortunes, more responsiveness to market messages and, of course, once the whole issue of fleet renewal is complete and the disposal of the seven remaining Dash 8 planes and the reduction in the head count is complete we think that LIAT will be on a much more viable and sustainable footing,” Stuart said at the time.
With LIAT expected to record total losses of $29.6 million for 2014, the leaders had pledged an almost immediate cash injection of $3.7 million.
When contacted today on the position taken by Antigua and Barbuda, LIAT Chairman Dr Jean Holder was circumspect.
“I, too, have noted the prime minister’s action but there is nothing more I can say at this time about it. I am aware that he has written the letter to Dr Gonsalves so the matter is, therefore, up for discussion. I cannot say anything more on it,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Gonsalves could not be reached for comment, and Barbados’ Tourism Minister Richard Sealy was unavailable.