Browne: LIAT is not moving
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has said that the “idle chatter” about plans to relocate LIAT’s headquarters to Barbados had ended and the carrier’s base would remain grounded in St John’s.
In February, the chairman of LIAT’s shareholder governments, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves announced that LIAT’s fleet base would be shifted from Antigua and Barbuda to Barbados to focus on the more lucrative southern Caribbean and to reduce its staff by 180 as part of a plan to help restore the airline to financial stability.
Gonsalves said at the time, Barbados would house four of the airline’s new ATR aircraft, two would remain in Antigua and the other two would be based in Trinidad.
Browne said talk of relocation was “idle chatter” and that his country remained steadfast in its commitment to the loss-making airline.
“That idle chatter has ceased, if not for the time being, then permanently. At the end of the day, Antigua and Barbuda struggled with LIAT for about five decades and we did not differentiate on the viability of routes. We made sure that all of the countries in the Caribbean, especially in the OECS were serviced to ensure there was connectivity so people could move throughout the region,” the prime minister said.
“I recognize that its losses have created some considerations, and rightfully so, because those losses would have increased exponentially. But within recent times we have seen some improvements and we continue to remain hopeful for an efficiently run LIAT.”
The Antiguan leader said more countries of the sub-regional grouping, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), had shown interest in subsiding the carrier, which he suggested might continue to operate at a loss due to the “nature of the airline business”.
“I’m not making a case here to suggest that LIAT should not run efficiently; it ought to. But we have to look at the market structure itself, which would mitigate against LIAT making an overall profit,” Browne added.
The prime minister revealed that St John’s injected US$400,000 in the carrier last week as part of $10 million that his country had promised to deliver to the airline by yearend.