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 is that the Minister of Finance, the junior Minister of Finance did indicate that there was a 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 said the plan is to lease the existing fleet from LIAT 1947.
“In terms of how we manage the transition is dependent on how quickly the intended new shareholder arrangements materialize…There is an urgency and the continuous stress of persons who need to travel across the Caribbean and have had extreme challenges…” he added.
He said, “the faster we can get LIAT 2020 operational, the faster we can get member states within the OECS to come onboard and transition from the old to the new, I think it will argue well for air travel and regional air travel…” Nicholas said.
Since 2020, LIAT has been under a court-appointed administrator. That happened 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.