The government said it would continue to fight to get LIAT 2020 off the ground despite plans by Caribbean Airlines to lease four additional aircrafts, a move that has been seen as a hindrance to Antigua and Barbuda’s plan, already in motion.
Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister Lionel Max Hurst told the weekly Cabinet press briefing earlier today that the Gaston Browne-led administration has been working towards a new entity, which is, according to him, a better choice
“We have been working with Air Peace with the expectation that it would ensure our LIAT survives, and we believe it’s a better approach than the plans announced by CAL. They essentially intend to take from Antigua and Barbuda the aviation services that we have been proving by way of LIAT for more than sixty years”, he said
“We are going to continue to fight this approach of trying to take from Antigua and Barbuda the important role which LIAT played, not only in proving the service to interregional travel but all those jobs; more than 600 of them. This indicated that Antigua and Barbuda was providing a regional service…” he said
Trinidad and Tobago’s Finance Minister, Colm Imbert, has announced Caribbean Airlines’ (CAL) plans to restore its pre-pandemic fleet size and enhance its connectivity across Trinidad and Tobago and the wider region.
CAL intends to lease additional aircraft, including four ATR planes, three Boeing 737-8s, and five Embraer commercial jets, to meet the inter-regional travel demand and establish new bases and hubs in the region for better efficiency and cost reduction.
Furthermore, CAL will expand its cargo services across the region by leasing two Boeings and two ATRs, considering cargo operations as an essential revenue source.
LIAT 1974 Ltd. was the leading carrier for decades in the subregion, but due to prolonged financial issues, had to shut down, creating a significant gap in the market.
In contrast, Caribbean Airlines (CAL) has been expanding its routes to satisfy demand in the Eastern Caribbean. Recently, CAL added new non-stop services between Barbados and St. Vincent and St. Lucia in July and new services between Trinidad, Dominica, and Antigua in August.
CAL’s expansion could prove disastrous for LIAT 2020, which is still trying to get off the ground, as CAL continues to widen its reach across the region
Meanwhile, the government could acquire the relevant license soon to get LIAT 2020 off the ground.
Hurst said “we are not so far away, the license which is to be issued by the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority can only take place when LIAT 2020 actually has an aircraft
The government has been in negotiations to buy one aircraft from LIAT 1974 ltd while the other two will be bought from the Caribbean Development Bank
“Our expectation is that we will conclude some of these concessional arrangements with the CDB if it is possible and we put them back in the skies because they are just sitting there,” he added
He said the expectation is that the new arrangement could come on stream by the end of the year.