Regional: Flights to begin within matter of weeks 

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(Barbados Today) – Possible replacement airlines have been identified to fill the void left by LIAT.

Word of this has come from outgoing Caribbean Community (CARICOM) chairman and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who revealed that six airlines have already expressed interest in replacing the soon to be liquidated regional carrier.

Speaking during today’s special conference of CARICOM leaders, which was held virtually, she said the interested parties were already operating in the region and would provide travellers with safe, affordable and reliable transportation throughout the Eastern Caribbean “within the next few weeks”.

Last Sunday, Prime Minister of Antigua Gaston Browne announced that LIAT, which is based in the twin-island nation, would soon be liquidated and a new entity formed to facilitate intra-regional travel.

“I am happy to report that since announcements were being made earlier this week about LIAT’s demise, that six airlines have come forward offering to fill the space. SVG Air and One Caribbean out of St Vincent and the Grenadines; CAL [Caribbean Airlines] which is already an airline known to the region; InterCaribbean which is an airline from the Turks and Caicos; Silver which we have asked to meet with us over the course of the next few days, and that is an airline out of the United States but working out of the Caribbean, and of course Air Antilles which is French-based and is predominantly between Martinique, Guadeloupe and Paris but have an interest now in working in the Southern Caribbean. We are satisfied that these six airlines can more than fill the immediate gap, particularly given the reduced travel within COVID,” Mottley disclosed.

“Having said that, I hope that we will be able to work with them and other private sector players who have also expressed an interest in being able to see how they can work either on their own or with some of the existing players in order to be able to fill the gap, simply because governments now have to use their funds to be able to deal with health expenditure, to be able to deal with water, to be able to deal with other forms of transport, to be able to deal with the fact that our tourism sector as well as our vulnerable populations all require us to hold their hands because they have come to zero revenue.”

Mottley admitted that the decision to liquidate LIAT was not an easy one.

But she said while LIAT 1974 Ltd had been good to the region for more than 60 years, the time had come for a new beginning.

“There are those of you who are deeply worried about the absence of intra-regional transport with the news that LIAT will be liquidated. Let me say at the outset that this is not an easy decision for any of us. The reality is that LIAT has been for us a critical part of our history [and] it has allowed Caribbean people to move,” Mottley acknowledged.

“But there also is a time when those instruments that served us well in the past may not be the right instruments for us going forward, and to that extent the board of directors, because of the heavy debt which LIAT has been carrying not now, but for many, many years, has indicated to us that it is no longer possible to trade as LIAT 1974 Ltd and that, in truth and in fact, the company is effectively insolvent and that it needs liquidation.

“The good news is that our commitment remains to safe, reliable, affordable travel within the Eastern Caribbean,” she maintained.

Prime Minister Browne, who did not attend nor have any representative at today’s meeting where Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines took over as chairman of CARICOM, is resisting LIAT’s liquidation.

In a letter addressed to the leaders of other major shareholder governments – Mottley, Gonsalves, and Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit – he proposed that the cash-strapped airline be reorganised rather than liquidated.

He also said that “as a contingency arrangement” his government “intends to launch LIAT (2020) Ltd as early as possible” as a suitable replacement, should the other shareholders decide not to consider its reorganisation.

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