Hundreds stranded as LIAT pilots refuse to take to the skies

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Over 1,000 passengers across the region were left stranded yesterday after pilots from regional carrier LIAT refused to fly the ATR 72 series aircraft.
They took the stance as they demanded of LIAT’s management to acknowledge in writing the agreement reached at a recent meeting.
Up to last night, there was no word on how long the pilots intended to continue their protest amidst the dispute with management which included a salary increase and other related issues.
The pilots took action yesterday morning after receiving a written directive from the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA), informing them that “with immediate effect all pilots are instructed not to fly any ATR 72 series aircraft operated by LIAT 1974 LTD, until further notified by the president [Captain Carl Burke] or a member of the executive council.”
This, according to a press statement from LIAT, affected flights LI 560 from St Vincent to Barbados; LI 300 from Barbados to Tortola; LI 301 from Tortola to Barbados; LI 512 from Antigua and St Kitts; and LI 393 from Barbados to Guyana.
The directive further instructed that the ATR 72 crews ought to check in as normal and advise Operations Control of the instruction and turn to the LIALPA Executive and or LIALPA’s lawyer Justin Simon QC for further information where necessary.
“ATR 42 aircraft are to be operated as normal including positioning flights within the confines of the Collective Agreement,” the directive concluded.
The reason given as to why the pilots must not fly the ATR 72 series was that operating it comes with additional responsibility but without commensurate pay.
In a letter to the Chairman of LIAT, Jean Holder, LIALPA wrote, “Any properly run airline would have been able to meet its obligation to its pilots after a four-year grace period and a seven-year wage freeze.”
Therefore, LIALPA said, it is not convinced it should “subject its members to further exposure and responsibility without the agreed compensation … the ATR-72 with its increased capacity over the Dash-8 is in fact increased responsibility in terms of passengers and payload.”
The pilots’ association charges that the airline’s financial troubles are not due to any past action by the pilots, but that this was due to the “incompetence and mismanagement” by LIAT’s management team.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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