Expert calls on govts to make LIAT pilots happy

One international airline expert suggested Friday that LIAT’s shareholder governments needed to intervene to bring an end to the potentially devastating strike by the airline’s pilots.

Denver-based airline consultant and airline revenue management strategist Tom Bacon told Barbados TODAY a strike could be “a very bad thing” not only for the travellers, but the region, which is already struggling economically.

Several flights in and out of the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) were either cancelled or delayed, as a strike by LIAT pilots persisted for a third straight day Friday, with their union, the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots’ Association (LIALPA), refusing to back down from its position that its members will not operate the ATR 72 series aircraft over pay issues dating back to 2013.

The airline, which is no stranger to industrial action, has about ten aircrafts, half of which are ATR 72-600.

Speaking to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of a marketing conference at the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Caribbean Week in New York last evening, Bacon suggested that Caribbean governments take a page from the book of former US president Bill Clinton, who in 1997 intervened to end a strike by American Airlines (AA) pilots.

Tom Bacon (left) in conversation with CTO Secretary General Hugh Riley.

“So there may be some kind of a government action that can take place because of the impact, the tremendous impact that something like this can have on a region,” Bacon said.

The former AA employee said although only one type of aircraft was at the centre of the LIAT conflict, the strike still had the potential to have a significant impact on regional travel.

He called on both sides to seek to find common ground, even while stating the pilots must be made to feel they are getting a fair deal.

“Labour is such a huge part of the airline business, we need the pilots on board and feeling like they are compensated properly and that they are treated fairly. That is a goal of LIAT themselves, every airline. It is not just to keep our cost down but to have happy employees, have employees that can really support a very complex operation. So in the end we do need the two to work together, we do need the two to agree on some thing,” Bacon cautioned.

LIALPA has accused LIAT’s management of failing to honour a salary arrangement dating back to January this year. During a meeting in Antigua on Wednesday, the pilots’ union rejected a new proposal by the airline for salary increases with respect to the ATR 72 from July 19, 2017.

LIALPA had also made it clear that it wanted no part of any deferrals for an installment of retroactive ATR pay adjustment dating back to 2013.

Acknowledging that he was not fully aware of the details of the LIAT row, Bacon said government intervention was the best way to prevent the row from dragging on much longer.

“I do not know what that agreement should look like but if the government can play a role and say, ‘let’s get these guys together and help mediate a solution’ and potentially perhaps that is one alternative.

“Two parties coming together is tough, five parties may be impossible. But in the end the pilots, it is in their interest and it is in the company’s interest and so there is a natural force. The airline is not happy not flying those airplanes and the pilots are not happy not flying those airplanes, so there is common ground here, and potentially just making sure that they just sit together at the table, making sure that they both have all the facts, but in the end they will work it out,” said Bacon.

While the government of Antigua and Barbuda – the airline’s second largest shareholder, appealed to the pilots on Thursday to immediately get back to work, Barbadian tourism officials have so far stayed clear of commenting on the matter.

4 Responses to Strikebreaker

  1. BimJim June 10, 2017 at 8:07 am

    I am not at all sure we in the region need advice from a developed country, where all matters are brutally formalised and forced into pre-determined “slots”. Many – MANY – nationalities have come to the Caribbean to start airlines and failed miserably – it has been made painfully obvious by failure after failure that their ways simply DO NOT work here.

    It is mere average common sense that what is needed at LIAT is professional management, management which is not chained to the wall and to the floor by regional politics or interfering bumbling politicians, management which can turn the airline around with expert knowledge and make it soar. Everybody else in the region can see that, and the politicians surely read it in the newspapers, but for some reason basic common sense does not penetrate their “bubbles”.

    We should NOT, as has been the case for decades, continue to make political appointments to elevated positions in LIAT of political relatives and friends with instructions to go and “do a ting” or “see what you could do”.

    Over and over again the PMs – not once, but repeatedly through the ages – have been told that an airline is not a rum shop, is not a haberdashery, is not a hardware store, yet over and over again crassly unsuitable and unqualified political appointees are shuffled in – and after they lose a couple hundred million US dollars, shuffled back out again.

    Right now a hotel book-keeper is running “our” airline as CEO… with zero aviation qualifications, experience or expertise. All she knows about aviation andr airlines is how LIAT _IS_ run – BADLY – she has zero resourcdes to know for sure how it SHOULD BE run.

    But what the hey, it’s only taxpayers money, the politicians don’t mind losing that at all.

    COME ON, PMs, GET THE LEAD OUT. OPEN YOUR EYES AND EARS, AND STOP PLAYING STUPID POLITICAL GAMES. We won’t put up with this “manure” for much longer.

  2. Alex Alleyne June 10, 2017 at 9:31 am

    What LIAT need is an outside company taking over the helm and freeing the governments of CARICOM from any involvement . Until then and only then will we see anything positive coming from that airline.
    WASTE OF TIME JUST PASSING CEO to CEO , from friend to friend. Once and for all ……MOVE LIAT HEADQUARTERS FROM ANTIGUA…….ASAP.

    • Jim Lynch June 11, 2017 at 4:45 pm

      I disagree.

      A la REDjet – and many, many others – the expertise (knowledgebase) of outside companies are always back home in their own developed countries, and developed countries are places where every last thing in life and business is pared down, crafteed and shaped to drop into pre-formed “slots”. If it does not fit into a slot they know about, the “experts” don’t know what to do with it.

      Bring those “experts” to the Caribbean, and they have all – British, Irish, Canadian, American – shown themselves to be inadequate, incapable, and bankrupted MANY airlines, both start-up and existing.

      Those outside companies also tend NOT to hire locals or regionals, they want to employ their own people who they know who will do things THEIR (the wrong) way.

      For example, 20 or so years ago American muilti-millionaire Bruce Kaufman, owner of TIA2000 in Barbados, first bought and then bankrupted that company, then went to Antigua to buy and bankrupt the venerable Carib Aviation, then pulled both of the aircraft he had leased to Jamaica Air Shuttle and bankrupted them, now he is raising TIA again – and it does look like he is running that into bankruptcy too, before he has even started operating.

      Let us be clear: The solution to LIAT is simple, does not require closing it down ($$$$) or moving it to Barbados ($$$$), and does not require “rocket surgery”.

      The major solution to LIAT is to extract the politics from the airline – from the Board, from management, from daily directives, from any interference at all – and install COMPETENT AIRLINE management. Period.

      The solution to LIAT is for the Prime Ministers to stop playing God with taxpayers money and to appoint people to the Board who have a resume with AT LEAST airline experience.

      The solution to LIAT is for the Prime Ministers to set the Board (and the CEO) VERY BROAD mandates… such as to “serve all the existing destinations”, such as “break even or better in five years”, etc.

      The next biggest solution to LIAT is for the new Board to find and appoint an international AIRLINE CEO – in the first instance – who is a qualified “turn around artist” who has global AIRLINE experience and preferably some experience in the Caribbean. After he/she has “right-sized” LIAT and put it on the right track, then regionals need to be trained how to manage it properly at all levels, establish realistic goals, and get on with it.

      LIAT’s BIGGEST problems, at its core are, and have been for 40 years, POLITICAL. The politicians – of all of the shareholders – stuiff the Board and management with their friends and party faithful, and of course the taxpayers pay heavily for that nonsense.

      So take the politics out of LIAT, install qualified AIRLINE management, and then get the politicians the hell out of the way. There will be a short period of uncertainty and discomfort, but trust me, LIAT will come out of it stronger and probably bigger than it has ever been. I think any jobs lost initially would be picked up again as soon as the sap starts rising in the “new” company.

      There MUST be a point at which the taxpayers say “Enough, already”, and I wish there were a forum or positive means by which the shareholder Prime Ministers could be addressed by that many people with a single voice, at a volume loud enough that the message cannot be ignored.

  3. jeffrey Durant June 10, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Cheap labour.. high flight prices. Company broke . Whats goin on with management. Are they hopeless


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