LIAT chooses Taiwan PM

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Numerous flight disruptions, which left hundreds of LIAT passengers stranded between Friday and yesterday, has been blamed on management’s “poor” decision to charter one of its ATR aircraft to transport the Taiwanese prime minister, who is currently visiting several territories around the region.

Two well-placed officials told OBSERVER media that on Friday at least four flights were put off, while on Saturday another five flights out of Antigua were cancelled; in addition to three out of Barbados, two from Puerto Rico and one from Trinidad.

As a consequence, one of the sources said, more flights are expected to be affected today as staff work on clearing the backlog.

“This is unacceptable. LIAT claims it is losing money, yet it takes on a charter that could in no way generate revenue to cover the expenses incurred by the flight cancellations – expenses for hotel and food for passengers – and which would only serve to further damage the reputation of the company,” one source said.

The source said management’s decision to leave passengers stranded so as to provide the charter to the official is “ironic” and “foolish.”

That’s because, according to the source, the decision was made amidst the company’s summer meltdown and on the same day the LIAT’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ian Brunton issued a press statement, vowing the company would “do better.”

“LIAT had an obligation to outsource the charter and deliver uninterrupted service to its regular customers. Because of the stature of the official and nature of his travels, security personnel had to search and secure the aircraft since Friday, ahead of the departure on Saturday. So, many, many passengers were left behind,” the source noted.

Efforts to reach LIAT’s communications officer Desmond Brown were unsuccessful.

Chairman of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots’ Association (LIALPA) Captain Carl Burke who appeared as a guest on OBSERVER Radio’s Big Issues programme yesterday, declined to discuss the details of the issue, even as he confirmed there were some flight cancellations.

Meantime, another source told this newsroom, while pilots are complaining of being pushed to the limit and working on their days off, mechanics and engineers are also being worked to the point of exhaustion at times.

When LIAT embarked upon its re-fleeting exercise, it sent many of its pilots overseas to be trained to fly the new ATR 72 600.

In keeping with aviation regulations, those pilots who are now trained to fly that type of aircraft, cannot go back to flying the company’s Dash 8 airplanes that account for the majority of aircraft in use.

(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)