(Barbados Today) – In another two weeks, Vincentian airline One Caribbean Ltd is to establish a base here, beginning with at least four daily flights, Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds, has declared.
Several other airlines have expressed an interest in filling the void left by the liquidation of the cash-strapped airline LIAT.
Symmonds, who was addressing the 20th annual general meeting of the Intimate Hotels of Barbados (IHB) by videoconference that he was giving hoteliers the assurance that despite the current dismal situation the outlook was optimistic.
He explained that roughly 250,000 people would come to Barbados annually using the LIAT services.
Symmonds said: “Last year it was around 258,000. And the density of traffic in that network that LIAT had is not going to be replaced overnight.
“So it is going to be a period of time until whatever airline or combination of airlines come into fruition and into operation, before we can resume to that level of traffic, but what I think we have to do again is to put on a hopeful and cheerful look at what is happening, because it has not meant that traffic has come to an end.”
Stating that LIAT would have been one of the first airlines that Barbados would have wanted to restart operations to Bridgetown, Symmonds said up to “a couple days ago” he met with officials of One Caribbean Ltd.
Without going into details, Symmonds said “they are making substantial strides in order to advance the degree of operation they do in the southern part of the Caribbean”.
“Therefore, we can realistically see evolving in the not too distant future, and by that I mean literally in a couple of weeks, the hub and spoke operation that will embrace Barbados and a number of the other islands of the Caribbean,” he said.
“I am satisfied that once they can get their operations fully up and running we will be able to see at least four flights out of Barbados and back in every day, and Barbados will be the hub of that hub and spoke operation.”
Symmonds said he was confident the One Caribbean flights would fill a major portion of the void left by LIAT.
“With others coming on board, then we have an opportunity to supplement some of that short fall of traffic. So while I recognize that the regional traffic has taken a hit, even beyond what happened with COVID-19, I want you to be able to go away with the certain knowledge that there is a ray of sunshine on the horizon,” said Symmonds.
He made no mention of the Mia Mottley administration’s intention to meet with Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne over the winding up of the Antigua-based LIAT’s operations.
Browne, who opposes the liquidation of LIAT (1974), has instead urged other major shareholders – Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica – for support of a new company, LIAT 2020, to take over the operations.
Browne’s latest request has been a meeting with Prime Mottley, in an apparent last ditch effort to garner support to start a new company to replace LIAT.