Gov’t to talk flight plans with LIAT

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The Antigua and Barbuda government will look to sort out concerns about LIAT’s flight routes when it meets with the company’s executives on Monday.
Based on a statement from Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst the government’s chief-of-staff, it would appear that the Browne-administration plans to use the airline’s recent request for financial assistance as leverage.
“We have a fundamental quarrel with LIAT and the way they have taken Antigua out of their flight path. Those are the issues that will be put on the table before any discussion can be had about money passing hands,” Hurst
disclosed during a cabinet press briefing on Thursday.
In what the government has described as LIAT’s “crazy” flight path, Hurst gave the example of a trip to San Juan entailing residents going to Dominica, where they layover for nearly four hours, before taking another LIAT flight that passed over Antigua en route to Puerto Rico.
“It’s just ridiculous what they have done,” he fumed.
Hurst spoke with this newspaper hours after Sir Robin Yearwood, Civil Aviation Minister, had told the Cabinet Wednesday, that the company has asked the government for a sum commensurate with its 34 percent shareholding, to meet debt obligations to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
The company is servicing a US $65M loan that it received in 2013 from the Barbados-based financial institution, to change its fleet from Dash-8s to ATRs.
“There is a debenture or bond or something, of about 7 million US dollars, so our share would be a third of that which is about 2.5 million US,” the chief-of-staff explained.
Julie Reifer-Jones, LIAT’s Chief Executive Officer confirmed the September 4 meeting, saying that it’s part of the company’s review of the issues impacting its operations as well as regional transportation.
She however declined to comment “on any money issues or any discussions that went on in the Cabinet.”
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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