Tuesday, March 15, 2011

LIAT Goes Jet?


LIAT, the Antigua-based regional airline is looking at acquiring jet aircraft to operate services to Miami and even New York.
This is the word from Vincentian Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, chairman of LIAT’s three shareholder governments following a meeting in Barbados Monday. The meeting was attended by host PM Freundel Stuart and PM Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda.
In an obvious jab at Caribbean Airlines, Dr Gonsalves said, “While others may wish to come into our space, it is not beyond LIAT, for LIAT to also go further regionally and to Miami and even to New York with a particular type of aircraft and to do it in a manner which is facilitating of travel and including tourism.”

Late last year CAL chairman George Nicholas revealed that CAL had plans to operate services into several southern Caribbean island states, including St Vincent and the Grenadines, when it received its new ATR turbo-prop planes later this year.

Dr Gonsalves, according to a report by the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) in Bridgetown said,”…in some newer routes in the Caribbean and Latin America, not currently served by any Caribbean airline, perhaps a jet service, in addition to existing turbo-prop service with Dash-8 aircraft, would be useful.”

The three prime ministers met at the Barbados Hilton where they received two detailed presentations from a fleet planning committee, following which there was agreement in principle that LIAT should begin plans to roll out a new fleet “as soon as possible”.
Although it is known that LIAT made a substantial loss last year, no reference was made about where funding for any new planes would come from.

The 18-plane fleet now being operated by LIAT is aged and was costing the company some (US)$26 million annually in maintenance. Two years ago when the shareholder governments agreed to a fleet renewal, the price tag then was (US)$54 million. However, Dr Gonsalves did not name a price this time around, but when asked about a timeframe for the order to be placed, he said there was still some work to be done before an order was placed.

Three weeks ago LIAT’s pilots complained about the company not complying with the ruling of the arbitration panel, but this was strongly refuted by company officials.

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