Six airlines step forward to help fill LIAT gap

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By Adia Wynter

Outgoing Caricom chairman Mia Mottley is reassuring Caribbean residents that the region has sufficient resources to fill the gap left by LIAT’s liquidation.

At a heads of government meeting yesterday, Barbados Prime Minister Mottley explained that help is at hand with several airlines already coming forward pledging to boost capacity and help keep the region connected.

“Since announcements were being made earlier this week about LIAT’s demise, six airlines have come forward offering to fill the space,” Mottley said.

They include SVG Air and One Caribbean, which are both based in St Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago’s popular Caribbean Airlines; InterCaribbean based in the Turks and Caicos Islands; Fort Lauderdale-headquartered Silver Airways; and French airline, Air Antilles.

Mottley also addressed public concern over the potential stunting of interregional travel as a result of LIAT’s collapse.

“There are those of you who are deeply worried about the absence of interregional transport with the news that LIAT will be liquidated,” she said. 

“The reality is that LIAT has been, for us, a critical part of our history… but there also is a time where those instruments that served us well in the past may not be the right instruments for us going forward,” she remarked. 

She said keeping the carrier afloat “would require a level of funding that we simply do not have in the affairs of our communities”.

“Because of the heavy debt which LIAT has been carrying… [the board of directors] have indicated to us that it is no longer possible to trade as LIAT 1974 Ltd and that the company is effectively insolvent and that it needs liquidation.”

Incoming Caricom chair, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Dr Ralph Gonsalves, said he believed the interested carriers could serve the region” safely, reliably, sustainably and reasonably priced”.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne shunned the meeting in protest at what he claimed was a “conspiracy” by some regional heads to “stymie” LIAT’s resurgence as a new entity.

Browne wrote to his fellow shareholder government heads on Thursday asking them to reconsider liquidating LIAT and, instead, look at reorganising it.

He said it was “troubling” that shareholders had decided by majority vote to liquidate without “any arrangements for meeting obligations to creditors and employees”.

“My government remains convinced that LIAT 1974 Ltd could be reorganised for the benefit of the Caribbean’s people; to continue to provide the essential bridge between our nations; to satisfy obligations, at least partially, to creditors and employees through negotiations; and to turn the airline into a leaner, more efficient service that could be profitable,” he wrote.

More than half of LIAT’s 900 staff live in Antigua and Barbuda, where the airline is headquartered.

The twin island nation’s government revealed plans earlier this week to plough as much as US$20 million into a new incarnation of LIAT – and said it is already working to trademark the name ‘LIAT 2020 Ltd’.

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