Prime Minister Gaston Browne has indicated that the new LIAT 2020 could take shape by September or October this year.
He said despite the challenges the government remains committed to establishing a bridge between Antigua and Barbuda and West Africa.
And with Caribbean Airlines and Inter-Caribbean Airlines purchasing new planes, Browne believes that there will be an onslaught for the new LIAT 2020
“We remain undaunted and unfortunately, we have had to go outside of the region to find an investor but it is what it is. What we may see now as a challenge may turn out to be a competition,” Browne said
Browne said he was also disappointed by remarks made by a CARICOM leader whom he claimed uttered the words “integration is about winners and losers”.
He said he was disappointed since benefits should be shared equitably and not have winners and losers
“Having heard it from one of our heads, I said to myself that is brutal. If some of our heads have that kind of mindset then the small islands have to be very careful that they don’t get totally displaced,” Browne added.
Meanwhile, although support from regional counterparts is not forthcoming, Antigua and Barbuda is moving ahead unabated with its plans to get a new LIAT 2020 in the skies very soon. The hope of St Johns is to replace LIAT (1974) Limited which collapsed in 2020.
Accountants are busy putting the numbers together, said Information Minister Melford Nicholas, in an update to the press at the Cabinets weekly press conference held on Friday.
Nicholas said to date, the new LIAT 2020 has already been registered and assets will be made available to start up.
There have been some minor issues with the aircraft itself according to Nicholas, who claimed that a number of a number of them have been encumbered through the loan from the Caribbean Development Bank
“Those issues have to be resolved in terms of what it is that LIAT 2020 brings to the table for the engagement with the other partner. Clearly, the other partner has committed that whatever the asset base of late, they are prepared to ensure that in the new arrangement, they will bring an additional 70% of the equity to get this new airline in place. I believe that they are doing all of the due diligence and doing the assessments,” he added
Nicholas said undoubtedly, there is a void left behind by LIAT 1974 Ltd.
“I think we have to allow that process to unfold. There is still an opportunity and there is a viable market position for LIAT 2020 to take up. I know that the Prime Minister would have raised the issue again at Caricom.
“We do not have a conclusive position on that. I believe the team that is heading the development working with Air Peace was also given the responsibility of doing a roadshow to the respective member states of Caricom, certainly within the OECS as the initiative develops and to present it to them and for them to see the opportunity that comes with it,” Nicholas explained
Prime Minister Gaston Browne has been vigorously pursuing shareholders of former LIAT 1974 Ltd to invest in a new entity but that has not been successful.
Browne had said that another investor is required and Air Peace has indicated its capabilities.
That carrier will seek to establish regular flights between West Africa and Antigua, utilizing LIAT for dispersing its transit passengers to other Caribbean Countries, and building up the capabilities of LIAT to fly outside of the region.
The Nigerian airline will take up a 70% stake in LIAT 2020
AIR PEACE is a private Nigerian airline that was founded in 2013. Its head office is located in Ikeja, Lagos State, Nigeria.
The carrier will run only on a commercial basis and it will not be what he called a “regional bus”
He said once finalized, the fleet of LIAT will increase from two aircraft and fewer routes to having much more
The shareholder government resolved to liquidate LIAT 1974 Ltd after Covid-19 plunged the airline into further financial problems
The Antigua-based LIAT (1974) Limited, entered into administration in July 2020 following increased debt and the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The airline is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.