Time to talk
PM urged to call urgent meeting of LIAT shareholders
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is being urged to convene an urgent meeting with LIAT shareholder governments to come up with a concrete plan to put the struggling regional airline back on course.
Airline commentator and businessman Robert Pitcher made the call after again experiencing poor service from the carrier whose main shareholders are the governments of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica.
He said he was eager to see Stuart step forward with a plan as the leader of the largest shareholder government.
“With the 49 per cent [shareholding] or so that they say that we have, we would like him to call in the other guys and sit down and say ‘look, we have to produce a plan that works’,” said Pitcher.
“Here is the first suggestion coming from me and it is to change the board and to appoint a statistician. We don’t need Barbados, because we have 49 per cent, to have four board members. We need one from each shareholding government and each government that comes on board will have a say on it,” the frequent flyer offered, adding that rather than making political appointments to the airline’s Board, the shareholders should put a successful business person to lead the charge to recovery.
Pitcher was scheduled to travel to Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI) for a business meeting this week, but said he was informed that the flight had been cancelled.
“They gave no reason. What they told me is that they can either refund me my full amount of money or I could go tomorrow afternoon on the late flight,” he complained, lamenting that the cancellation could have a “terrible” impact on his business.
Pitcher’s complaint follows concerns raised by St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who last week added his voice to the growing complaints about poor service from LIAT.
“If you do not get rid of the [current] board right away we are going downhill faster because the problems are now multiplying by twos and threes and all we are concentrating on is moving [the airline’s fleet base] from Antigua to Barbados,” Pitcher warned.
“That does not solve the problem at all. If the head is bad the body [is] bad. Everybody besides the four shareholder governments recognize that the board [has] got to go.” said Pitcher.
The owner of Fun ‘N’ Sun Publishing said he believed the Eastern Caribbean governments of Grenada, St Lucia and St Kitts and Nevis would be willing to invest in the regional carrier if critical changes were made.
However, he said: “They cannot afford in these harsh economic times to take up millions of dollars to pump into LIAT for LIAT to continue to destroy the money that you put
Other problems identified by Pitcher at LIAT were staff shortages, lack of adequate training for employees and low staff morale.