Regional funding for LIAT 2020 remains grounded as regional counterparts are unmoved

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The prospect of a much-needed regional airline remains on the tarmac as regional governments refuse to give their support in funding the complete revival of LIAT.

Speaking at the post-Cabinet press briefing, Information Minister Melford Nicholas revealed that other Caribbean governments expressed reluctance to “embrace LIAT” according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who travelled to St Lucia for a special meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government, more than a week ago.

According to a government statement, the meeting was heavily focused on LIAT’s resuscitation, and the linkages between trade and air transportation within the region.

Following the downfall of LIAT (1974) Ltd in 2020—mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Antigua and Barbuda government led by Prime Minister Gaston Browne sought to quickly establish the new LIAT (2020) Ltd—which has been operating on a reduced scale.

However, last week’s meeting produced no tangible result for the Gaston Browne administration as questions over the regional strategy on financing the new airline remain unanswered.

“The loss of LIAT has been felt by everyone and we are still committed to that, but I think the Prime Minister, at an appropriate time, will have further engagement on this, and the sky is still the limit for LIAT 2020,” Minister Nicholas expressed.

The need for a regional airline has been aired by many Caribbean citizens, as intra-regional travel costs continue to be burdensome.

However, Minister Nicholas revealed that there may be possibilities for a “joint-venture agreement” with another airline.

“There may be an opportunity for some type of joint venture arrangement to be able to facilitate the expansion and resuscitation of LIAT, and the distribution from [Africa] to the Caribbean with an airline like Air Peace,” he explained.

Air Peace is a Lagos-based private airline owned by its CEO Allen Onyema, which was initially in discussions with the Cabinet over establishing commercial flights between Nigeria and Antigua. Those plans were scuttled after Air Peace announced plans to establish travel links with Jamaica as regulatory rules in the Eastern Caribbean were too cumbersome.

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