Editorial: A flying dolly house

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We are going to hold our noses, clasp our hands in prayer and venture into the very murky water that is LIAT.  We do not predict a pleasant journey but to make it as comfortable as possible, we are going to try to stay above the stench of insults being hurled back and forth and instead, focus on LIAT as a business.
To achieve our goal, we must start with the most obvious question:  what the heck is going on?  We would have loved to start with “what does LIAT mean to the Caribbean?” or “can we survive without LIAT?”, but those questions have been trumped by the current state of affairs.
One of the last salvos in the war between the pilots and the airlines was a move by the airline to seek an injunction to force the pilots to fly.  You know things are bad when you have to ask the court to force your workers to do their job.  It is obvious that we have reached a stage in the relationship between LIAT management and the pilots (via the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA)) where they seemingly cannot even get into a room and discuss things in a civil manner to effect a resolution.  They now need a judge to force one side to comply with the wishes of the other or lawyers to go into battle to force resolutions..
We do not want to take sides in any of this because we do not know all the details but in the real world, someone or ‘a few someones’, would have already been fired for letting this business get to this point.  We are literally seeing LIAT crumble before our eyes and no one is held accountable.  How is this possible?  If this were a sports team, somebody would have long been shown the door for allowing things to fall into such disarray.
Not so with LIAT.  And the only reason we can think of that explains this oddity, is politics.  LIAT is run just
like any other taxpayer funded entity that does not
have a profit motive and people are not held accountable; no matter the state of affairs.
Here we have a business that has a virtual monopoly but cannot turn a profit.  Heck, forget profit, LIAT cannot even break even.  Year after year, taxpayers are asked to dip into their shallow pockets to fork over gobs of money to LIAT. In return, they are offered expensive tickets to travel within the Caribbean to increasingly fewer destinations with greater inconvenience.  All the while suffering delays or cancellations, with notifications being delivered by increasingly unsympathetic airline representatives.
Meanwhile, the shareholder governments sit idly by and allow the catastrophe to continue as they foster a ‘business as usual’ culture.  Upon reflection, the first heads that should roll are the politicians.  Clearly, they have no idea as to how LIAT should function.  At this point, we would venture to say that they do not even seem to know what they want of the airline.
There is more than enough blame to go around when it comes to LIAT but unless and until there is a plan and people are held accountable to execute that plan, we will continue to play ‘dolly house’ with this very important Caribbean asset.  Just to give you an idea of what we are talking about.  On October 7, 2016 we ran a story that was headlined “LIAT to hire CEO in three months”.  Eight months later and Julie Reifer-Jones is still the Acting CEO while LIAT continues its search for its third CEO in five years – it was four years when we published the story.
Who is responsible for securing a new CEO?  Back when the story was written, Reifer-Jones said, “The position was advertised and we’re using an external agency to assist in that recruitment … I would assume that, hopefully, an appointment should be made in the next three months at least.” After viewing former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony, we know what the word “hope” means but at this point, we would be splitting hairs to go down that road.  We also know that good people are hard to find but 14 months to find a replacement CEO is a bit much – Evans resigned in April 2016!
LIAT is obviously a rudderless ship.  Harsh words?  Yes, but better than the “fatal descent” description from the LIALPA president, Carl Burke – at least we still have the ship afloat.  How long will it remain afloat before it hits some rocks? We do not know.  What we do know is that the inevitable end to the “fatal descent” may be coming soon if someone does not grab the yoke and forcefully pull the company out of this dive.
Right now, anyone who is carrying on like it is business as usual should be sent packing.  There is no room for nostalgia or politics.  LIAT is too close to the brink to allow the insanity to continue any longer.  The taxpayers of the region are fed up with having to throw more good money towards a bad cause and they deserve better.
Ernest Hemingway wisely cautioned that we should “never confuse movement with action”.  In the case of LIAT, there is a lot of action with little movement.  It is more akin to ‘spinning top in mud’ and we all know how productive that is.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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