By Shermain Bique-Charles
Several investors have reportedly expressed interest in the formation of LIAT 2020 – and they are willing to put their money where their mouths are as well.
Yesterday, the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel “Max” Hurst, told media that while the “absolute cost” has not yet been established, the amount of money already expressed by the investors would make a new incarnation of the cash-strapped airline “operable”.
“A manager receiver would have to be nominated and accepted by the court and that person would make the determination as to how much is the cost so LIAT can continue to operate,” he said.
Leaders of LIAT shareholder states are struggling over the future of the beleaguered airline and it’s been nearly two weeks since Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced that it was likely to liquidate and reform under a new entity, blaming the potential collapse on the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on travel.
But Browne said he is not prepared to give up just yet on LIAT, even as other shareholder governments have already voted in favour of its liquidation.
The PM is moving to establish LIAT 2020 Ltd to replace the ailing operation.
But it appears that the liquidation process is moving ahead quite speedily even in the midst of attempts to stall it.
A letter obtained by Observer has invited all of the airline’s creditors to a meeting at the LIAT headquarters in Coolidge.
That meeting is expected to take place on July 31, and all persons who have claims against the company are asked to submit them by July 27.
According to the letter, “a creditor entitled to attend and vote is entitled to appoint a proxy to attend and vote instead of it/him/her. A proxy need not be a member or creditor of the company”.
Meanwhile, Paul Cleary, CEO of UK-based holiday firm Caribtours, opined that “now is not the time to let LIAT fall from the skies”.
“It cannot be allowed to happen. I don’t think it’s an option. I have worked in the Caribbean for 35 years and I can tell you now is not the time,” Cleary said during a virtual conference this week.
“I understand the reasons behind it, but the fact is we need to keep the planes flying. LIAT is the lifeblood of the Caribbean travel. We need there to be inter-island flights. The people need those routes,” he added.
Cleary agrees that the Caribbean can come together to help save the airline.
“There’s a lot of money in the Caribbean. I think we should kick this can down the road for another six months until we get through Covid,” he said.
LIAT employs in excess of 400 people in Antigua and Barbuda and a total of about 800 region-wide.
The airline is co-owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Barbados, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, and usually flies around 500 routes to more than a dozen Caribbean countries.