ST JOHN’S, Antigua- The cash-strapped Antigua-based airline LIAT has told staff that the company is having significant cash flow challenges which will affect the payment of salaries. Several LIAT workers including cabin crew and ground staff are among those whose payments are due and have not been paid.
A number of workers told OBSERVER media that in face-to-face meetings with employees, LIAT blamed the financial problems on its ongoing fleet renewal programme.
Despite the challenges, LIAT’s spokesperson Desmond Browne told OBSERVER media the US $100 million purchase and lease of new ATR aircraft will go ahead as planned. He also offered assurances that the company’s financial challenges will be overcome although he did not say how.
LIAT expects that all late payments will be made by month-end. Sources said that the company also has difficulty meeting payments to lessors, a claim the company denies.
President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Kim Burdon, which represents engineers and other LIAT workers, said he would not be commenting on an internal matter. Attempts to reach Acting President of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) Euton Henry were unsuccessful.
In September, the airline signed a US $65 million loan with the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to help finance the purchase of aircraft. The fleet modernisation project involves the replacement of LIAT’s aging Dash-8 fleet with new ATR aircraft.
In total, the new fleet will include four 68-seat ATR 72-600s and four 48-seat ATR 42-600s.