Strong differences on LIAT’s way

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has strongly defended the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, amid criticisms of its performance, saying that if it did not exist “one would have had to be invented”.

Speaking in Guyana at the just concluded Caribbean Community (CARICOM), St Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet told reporters that the airline “needs to operate in the context of the private sector”.

The major shareholders in the airline are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne speaking to reporters at the just-ended  37th CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in Georgetown, Guyana.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne speaking to reporters at the just-ended
37th CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in Georgetown, Guyana.

However, the company, which has suffered tremendous losses over the years, has come in for much criticism from the Caribbean travelling public over poor customer service, delayed and cancelled flights and overall high costs of airfares to its destinations.

Calls by the major shareholders for other governments to participate in LIAT in the past have not been successful with many regional leaders making reference to the airline’s financial situation among other concerns.

“Transportation is critical to integration. I have made my position very clear that LIAT needs to be liberalized. LIAT needs to operate in the context of the private sector and I am not convinced that a monopoly in transportation is going to work,” Chastanet said.

However, Browne said he has no doubt that LIAT was serving the purpose of moving Caribbean people, which is significant to integration, adding “if there isn’t a LIAT, we certainly would have to invent one”.

He acknowledged that there were deficiencies within the operations of the Antigua-based airline, but said “some of the problems associated with LIAT, including profitability, are more about market structure and having more players will not necessarily be making things any different, because the airline industry is capital intensive”.

In further defence of the carrier which employs many Antiguans, Browne said that LIAT was spreading a very large capital over a very small population base “and that is one of the reasons too why prices are relatively high compared to other large destinations where these airlines are able to spread their capital costs over a larger population base.

“So there are some structural issues that are unavoidable and I have no doubt that LIAT is likely to require some form of subsidy in order to ensure its survival and to effectively be in a position to move Caribbean people.

He made it clear that he was not suggesting that LIAT should not be efficient, adding “clearly we would have to minimize the level of subsidies, because Caribbean countries are not in the best financial position and certainly not in the position to be profligate in their support for LIAT.”

However, Browne said: “We are being extremely hard on LIAT. We are not looking at the market structure, we are not looking at the other market idiosyncrasies associated with small states with very limited resources, the capital intensive nature of the airline industry and the fact that LIAT is providing a public good that is essential to the integration programme.”

He added: “We travel to other countries, we use other airlines and when they are extremely late we don’t make a big issue about it, but if LIAT is a few minutes late, it becomes a crisis.

“There has to be some level of tolerance not for inferior performance, but to understand that human error will always happen and that there’s likely to be delays from time to time,” he added.

Source: (CMC)

2 Responses to Strong differences on LIAT’s way

  1. Alex Alleyne July 8, 2016 at 6:14 am

    LIAT going “no where”.

  2. BimJim July 8, 2016 at 11:38 am

    WinAir was given competent management and told to sink or swim. They found ways to innovate and expand, and now they are making a profit.

    LIAT loses money because of politics – political interference, political appointees, political Board, political management, and massive politically-induced losses due to a long-serving shareholder Chairman who is a Marxist and believes all taxpayers should fund his personal pet schemes.

    Here are the items which need to be implemented in order to “fix” LIAT – which CAN break even and possibly even make a profit…

    1. Get the politicians COMPLETELY OUT of LIAT. That is done by appointing a NON-POLITICAL Board and handing them a few simple broad mandates.

    2. Replace the ENTIRE Board with people who have a clue about aviation. The current Directors may be experts in tourism, haberdashery, hardware, Permanent Secretarying and other non-technical areas, they know NOTHING and they have learned NOTHING about aviation and airlines in the last 40 years.

    3. Give the new Board the following simple, minimal, broad mandates:

    A. Break even or make a profit.
    B. Serve all of the current destinations

    A. Replace the entire executive management with ex-patriates on 5-year contracts who have track records of turning around regional airlines in the same class as LIAT, who are able to innovate, and who are able to create ways of solving LIAT’s problems without either breaking the bank or killing anyone.
    B. Appoint qualified, interested, experienced (NON-GOVERNMENT, NON-POLITICAL) management understudies who will take over from the ex-patriates at the end of the five-year contracts.

    5. Start imposing measurement – called “metrics” – on as many parameters as possible within LIAT. This is the only way Board and management are going to be able to measure performance. If you cannot measure performance then nothing will change.

    6. The person who “persuaded” the Board to change fleets to the ATR promised that costs would be lowered by a saving of fuel. Now is the time to measure what savings exist – and if there are none to start charging ATR for the losses under the warranty they provided.

    7. The person who “persuaded” the Board to change fleets to the ATR promised that delays would be eliminated by the reliability of the ATRs. If there is any delay whatsoever due to aircraft breakdown or lack of spares, now is the time to start charging ATR for time and cost of such shortfalls – cost of spares, overnighting people, providing refreshments and meals, etc. – under the warranty they provided

    8. It is time to eliminate employee dissatisfaction as far as possible. The days when management could keep negotiating with any sector of the employees for three, five, ten years or more and still not reach a satisfactory conclusion should have ended 30 years ago. Ten years negotiating is some EC$30 million down the drain in lost time from managers and employees alike. It is time to insert arbitration clauses into all employee contracts where two weeks are given to negotiation and any outstanding issues are fully arbitrated by qualified, responsible, trusted professionals.

    And so on… fixing LIAT is not “rocket surgery”, but if the POLITICAL WILL is not there to fix LIAT (or is there NOT to fix LIAT), and if the shareholders continue to use it as their stupid personal game, then at some point LIAT will close, have no doubt about that.


    WinAir has shown the way, has shown it is possible inside our region if the politicians will get the hell out of the way, and there is no excuse for them to continue to screw up what should be a smooth-running intra-regional travel resource.


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