Prime Minister Gaston Browne has emphasized the need for at least two carriers to meet the growing demands of intra-regional travel.
In a recent meeting with Professor Justin Robinson, the newly appointed Principal of the University of the West Indies Five Islands Campus, Browne stressed the importance of regional leaders working together to achieve this goal.
Browne highlighted the issue of unequal contributions for amenities, which has been a persistent problem in the sub-region.
He also reflected on the plight of a once-prosperous airline that could not sustain its operations in the region.
The dissolution of Antigua-based carrier LIAT 1974 Limited has further exacerbated the challenges of intra-regional travel.
The Antigua government is now working to revive LIAT 2020, following productive discussions with Nigerian Airline Air Peace’s leadership.
The discourse around regional travel woes gained prominence when Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves criticized the poor service of Turks and Caicos-based InterCaribbean.
Passengers have complained of prolonged delays, causing them to miss international connections. The airline’s apparent unprofessionalism and ineffective communication with customers have also been raised as concerns.
It is clear that a resilient and efficient regional aviation network is imperative for economic prosperity and connectivity.
Therefore, regional leaders must collaborate and strive to enhance services to meet the needs of travelers in the region.
In July 2020, LIAT (I974) Limited, whose primary shareholders include the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, filed for administration due to mounting debt and the detrimental effects of COVID-19.
According to regional trade unions, the airline owes millions of dollars in severance payments and other benefits to its employees.
However, Antigua and Barbuda have established LIAT 2020, which operates a limited number of flights in the region.
Recently, Gonsalves suggested to the CDB that their estimate for starting the new airline was too low, given their experience with LIAT’s re-fleeting. In 2013, CDB provided loans worth US$65 million to the four shareholder governments of LIAT to help with the acquisition of new aircraft as part of a fleet modernization project.
Gonsalves reported that Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, had approached him about a new initiative, but he urged them not to work at cross purposes.
Gonsalves also stated that when Barbados, for fiscal reasons, decided to stop investing in LIAT, he emphasized to Prime Minister Browne that Kingstown and St John’s could not sustain the airline alone.