“It is going to be a fight” …The words from the Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office, Lionel Max Hurst, who also made it clear that Antigua and Barbuda will not shy away from LIAT 2020, regardless of the opposition by some regional governments
At the recent Cabinet press briefing, Hurst said that the Gaston Browne-led administration is also resolute about keeping Antigua as the base for air transport services in the sub-region.
“We want to keep aviation services as a contribution which Antigua and Barbuda makes to the rest of the world”, Hurst said
LIAT 2020 has only received verbal support so far, and there is now talk of a new entity named WIAT (West Indies Air Transport); a rival airline.
“We know that there are others who are scheming to get aviation services which we deem to be our own; they are trying to get it to be theirs, and we are fighting it…We will revive LIAT 2020, and we believe it will be a better airline than what we had before”, Hurst said
According to Hurst, the shareholder governments agreed that the region needs LIAT but failed to act tangibly.
“Along comes the CDB, Barbados, and St Vincent….they seeking to cut off Antigua. In their planned schedule, only two flights were coming into Antigua, and they both came from Dominica and returned to Dominica…they were going to cut us off completely…clearly, a regional carrier won’t be behaving that way,” he said
LIAT 2020 is expected to begin operations with a fleet of six aircraft in the next few months.
However, Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, recently stated on his private radio station that they must take care of LIAT 2020 independently. He accepts this responsibility but will not tolerate any attempts by certain shareholders to move the airline’s headquarters from Antigua and Barbuda.
Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonzalves, had announced the establishment of a new airline called WIAT, which would be based in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
He also revealed that the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) had presented a plan for financing and operating a regional carrier, which he had received earlier this week.
The CDB has been studying the issue of regional air transportation since May 2015 and has been asked by regional leaders to review the problem of transportation scarcity, which has hindered the free movement of people within Caricom.
Dr. Gonzalves mentioned that Antigua and Barbuda is the geographical center of the OECS, but it is not the population center.
While Prime Minister Browne agrees with this statement, he believes that the population center should not determine the location of the headquarters but rather the amount of traffic.
Browne recalled that regional governments have attempted to relocate Antigua and Barbuda’s headquarters before but have resisted.
Browne believes other regional leaders are considering various scenarios for a new entity, but Antigua and Barbuda is committed to LIAT 2020.