Invitations have been sent out to several OECS governments as Antigua and Barbuda move ahead with plans to launch LIAT 2020.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas told the Cabinet press conference on Thursday that idea is to have these governments collaborate with Antigua and Barbuda on the venture.
He said the Ministry of Tourism will be hosting the OECS ministers of tourism early next month and the forum will be used to make a pitch to the other ministers of tourism within the OECS to increase the onboarding of interests in LIAT 2020.
“So that, to the end of the year, what tends to bring some very good news to the people of the Caribbean, the traveling public, whether for leisure or business or even for connecting with families and friends who are living in various member states. The other aspect of that is that the Minister of Finance, the junior Minister of Finance did indicate that there was certain mobilization that was required to make it all come together in December. But we are anticipating that all will be well,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nicholas says LIAT 2020 will be leasing the existing fleet from late 1974.
“It’s, it’s really what’s on the card. And of course, it’s gonna be dependent on how quickly the intended new shareholder arrangements, mature and materialize. But there is an urgency to be able to do that…The faster we can get LIAT, 2020 operational, the faster we can get member states within the OECS to come on board, and the faster we can transition from the old into the new,” Nicholas said.
He said, “I think it’s gonna augur well for air travel, and intra-regional travel. And of course, for the resuscitation of LIAT; the carrier which we all need to be able to satisfy our requirements for travel”.
LIAT 1974 Ltd has been under a court-appointed administrator since 2020 after the Covid-19 pandemic grounded the airline for an extended period. It has since been operating a reduced schedule with a limited workforce.
Owned by a handful of Caribbean shareholder governments, LIAT 1974 Ltd provided crucial regional connectivity for decades but folded when the Covid pandemic exacerbated its long-standing financial woes, leaving hundreds of former staff agitating for severance and other payments.