Big mistake LIAT!

Pitcher against CEO appointment

The decision to appoint Barbadian Julie Reifer-Jones as the new chief executive officer of the cash-strapped regional airline LIAT has been described as nothing short of a mistake by frequent flyer and airline commentator Robert Pitcher.

The regional businessman told Barbados TODAY he had absolutely no confidence that Reifer-Jones could turn around the fortunes of the troubled regional carrier, given that she had acted in the position several times in the past without making a difference.

Robert Pitcher and Julie Reifer-Jones

Reifer-Jones, an accountant, was appointed as the airline’s chief executive at the beginning of this month, almost a year after British-born David Evans quit the post.

She is the first woman to be appointed to the top position at the airline, which is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Reifer-Jones said she was delighted over her appointment and was looking forward to delivering an improved level of service from LIAT to the region.

However, Pitcher said he failed to see how that could happen under her watch, given that the Antigua-based carrier continued to struggle financially while she held the post of chief financial officer. He is therefore predicting that she will not last long in the position.

“Having sat on the board as the chief financial officer and failing to improve the quality of service and the cost of service of the airline through the Caribbean, how can you elevate that person from a failed position to put her to the very top position?

“What are we doing? Are we making things worse, or is this a way of relieving her of both duties at the same time? Because most of the CEOs, as you can see, doing nothing, they eventually go,” Pitcher said.

“She acted on more than one occasion as the  . . . CEO but . . . [achieved] nothing. Just a title but no changes were made,” he stressed.

At the same time, Pitcher is maintaining that the entire LIAT board of directors should be fired and a new board installed, made up of businesspeople from shareholder countries, including former Antigua and Barbuda Senator Aziz Hadeed, Barbadian businessmen Ralph Bizzy Williams and Mark Maloney, and Dominican hotelier Gregor Nassief.

“We need people like these to come and revamp the airline and make it successful. Not in the form of making millions of dollars but to make the airline efficient in service, affordable for the Caribbean people to travel from one island to the next and to keep the reserves in the Caribbean instead of taking them out to North America, because every time you buy foreign tickets the money go out, it don’t stay here,” the businessman said, while insisting that “there can be no changes in LIAT unless the whole board goes”.

He said apart from bad management, he believed poor planning  had contributed to the airline current troubles.

“We fail to [address] the problem. The problem is the board. The problem is not LIAT . . . If we do not get rid of the board and top management of LIAT it will always function in the same capacity it is functioning in. It will cost the taxpayers of the Caribbean more money to fly within the Caribbean and you will find that the capacity load will become much less because of the high cost it takes to be able to fly,” he added.

5 Responses to Big mistake LIAT!

  1. Saga Boy August 10, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    LIAT has had CEOs from all over the world including Ireland and nothing happened under their watch. Give the Bajan an opportunity to make a difference. The problem is not the CEO but CARICOM. If the governments only understood the benefits of cheap inter island travel LIAT would be a success.

    Reply
  2. BimJim August 11, 2017 at 8:19 am

    Sorry, Saga Boy, but the core problem is the political appointees at LIAT.

    ALL of the appointees to the CEO position – ex-patriate and regional – had their hands tied behind their backs by the Board and the shareholders, and insiders know that even today the shareholder Chairman interferes in the airline on an almost daily basis.

    Pull the politics out of LIAT, install a Board of regionals who have more than a sniff of a clue about aviation and airlines, install professional management, and you will quickly see LIAT break even and then make a profit.

    The Board would NEVER have been brambled to buy these unsuitable ATRs if even ONE person on the Board had real aviation experience and a calculatoir.

    NOTHING in aviation begs for “try a ting”, or “gih she a chance”. The BEST oversight and management for an airline that moves as quickly as LIAT is people who have decades of experience and have seen how airlines are run successfully elsewhere in the world. With that knowledge they can improvise from a position of strength to correct problems, at a glance see the real trends of the airline, and on every occasion make it better.

    What Ms. Reifer-Jones knows about airlines and aviation is what she has learned in her time at LIAT… and we already know how that is going. She has made no changes or improvements because she has no idea what the right thing is to do. That she got her job as CFO in the first place – and has been confirmed as CEO – is purely because she is a friend of Chairman Holder. This is the Caribbean, and these kinds of things do not remain hidden for long.

    The ultimate “fiddler” in LIAT is PM Gonsalves, the smallest shareholder – and therefore the smallest loser when the airline loses money – who knows as much about airlines as he does about the law (and he has never had training to be the lawyer he claims to be, he just puffed up and appointed himself to the bar). Gonsalves is not even a good politician or representative to his own people, and he not only has so much less to lose, he also has his own well-run airline in SVG Air, so in fact he does not even need LIAT.

    The idea that anybody in business can be on the Board or run an airline is a myth perpetuated by Caribbean politicians – so they can place their friends and Party faithful in plum positions to cull massive salaries and perks from the public (the shareholders and passengers) for little or nothing in return. An airline is NOT a haberdashery or hardware store, the skills and knowledge do NOT transfer.

    The remarks I have for the Board and management of LIAT are the same remarks as I have for the Barbados DLP and the BLP who appointed the LIAT Board – OUT! OUT! OUT! GET THE HELL OUT!

    Reply
  3. Milli Watt August 11, 2017 at 9:36 am

    I agree with Pitcher……………free money till they ready to recycle her with more of the same. I would be delighted to get paid for doing nothing.

    Reply
  4. DE SHAH August 12, 2017 at 9:51 pm

    Cost of travel in Caribbean is definitely too high but have we examine the taxes paid on the tickets. If the taxes are reduced fares can be reduce. Additionally, lower fares will increase travel thereby enhancing revenue. C’bean gov’ts are too greedy and will not reduce the taxes even though they stand to be better service with increase travel that would more than compensate for the lost taxes. Why should the airfare between SVG and B’dos cost more than a fare from B’dos to NY.

    Reifer-Jones should study the jet blue model and see how see could implement such a model for LIAT not withstanding the high taxes. The objective must be to increase travel which means some marketing has to be done. The Caribbean governments must be told that the C’bean market can be as lucrative as the metropolitan market and they must commit to give the space and enabling environment to make C’bean movement and single market a much more viable option. As a qualified accountant Reifer-Jones ought to do a cost to make fares more afforable but naturally expenses but must carefully manage particularly with the revenue base being restricted because of high fares. VFM must be a critical factor in any cost models she develops. as CEO (a promotion from CFO even by letters)she has a better chance for implementation as the buck stops at her now and she dont have to get a CEO buy-in.
    Liat can and should make money but like other c’bean airlines they are not creative and innovative enuff. She could even try a lower fare model for about 6 weeks and see the results from such before going full steam ahead. Also the governments can assist be not only lowering taxes but reducing the excise on fuel for the airline. Surely the country shareholders should do that and encourage the non-shareholders countries to do the same and if the non-shareholder countries dont do the same then the cost should be reflect in the cost of travel by they citizens.

    This is an exciting prospect but issues such as the caricom open sky agreement must be looked at, apart from getting the non-share-holders countries to put equity in LIAT if they want to continue to benefit from travel on LIAT. Naturally, competition must be looked at but it must be fare competition cuase it wont be right for LIAT to compete with Caribbean Airlines with CAL benefiting from lower input cost on they fuel.

    Reply
  5. Fool number one August 13, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    Ain’t that the norm of the day, what’s new

    Reply

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