By Orville Williams
Foreign Affairs Minister, EP Chet Greene, has welcomed the return of Antigua-based carrier LIAT to Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines, after both countries restricted the airline for a few weeks.
LIAT restored commercial passenger flights across the region late last month, but announced early in December that services to Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines would be suspended, until new approvals were given.
A scheduled flight was made to Barbados on November 30, but the carrier said that they were informed by both territories that new arrangements had to be made for further operations into the countries.
In a statement, LIAT said that prior to its suspension of services due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the airline had been operating to these destinations on valid flight approvals, which have not expired.
The decision from both countries drew ire from the government, who called the reasons “subterfuge and trickery,” adding that they were seemingly intended to ensure that LIAT does not succeed. CARICOM was asked to intervene in the matter to facilitate an amicable solution.
Just yesterday, LIAT announced that its flight to Barbados would resume on Monday 21 December, with Cabinet also confirming that both countries [St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados] “have dropped their objections and will have LIAT land at their respective airports.”
Speaking to Observer yesterday, Greene hailed the move as a huge benefit to the airline’s operations and to the concept of regional integration.
“It’s a good day for LIAT, it’s a good day for the regional integration movement. The fact that LIAT is in the skies requires traffic for LIAT to be sustained and maintained in the skies. So, to have rights into Barbados [and] into St Vincent, that’s more than welcomed.
“CARICOM leaders, at their last heads meeting, would have looked at and examined the whole question of the integration movement and the notion of having movement between our respective islands. So, what LIAT is doing here is what [the carrier] has done throughout the years.
“The difference in this instance is that, notwithstanding the need to have LIAT in the air, [there is also] the need to have heightened maintenance of the protocols in this Covid period. So, welcome news for Antigua and Barbuda, for Caribbean aviation, for regional integration, for trade and commerce, for all those things that LIAT carries within its operations [throughout] the region,” Greene said.
The Minister also talked up the relationship between Antigua and Barbuda and both countries, calling this incident nothing but a disagreement.
“We’ve never had anything but good relations [and] one disagreement does not [make] a relationship spoil. [The fact that] Barbados or St Vincent would have had a different view on the matter, in no way at all takes away from the relationship between Antigua and Barbuda and these two Caribbean jurisdictions.
“Ralph Gonsalves has been the longest-serving prime minister of this era [and] Mia Mottley [is] the only female prime minister of the CARICOM region in this era, [so] they both understand the value of regionalism. I don’t think there’s anything untoward with the relationship.”