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Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves introduces Ian Brunton, chief executive officer of LIAT at a ceremony on in St. Vincent to welcome LIAT’s first ATR aircraft to the country on June 26, 2013.

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Regional airline LIAT is cash-strapped but not poor, Chief Executive Officer, Ian Brunton says.

“The chairman said that we are cash strapped. We are cash-strapped but we are not poor. We are rich in talent; we are rich in competence as the whole of this Caribbean is.

“LIAT is a microcosm of this Caribbean and it is joining this Caribbean together. So, I urge the naysayers to join us. Yes we can. We know that phrase, we have always said it; we can do it here, we can make the LIAT the best thing in this part of the world,” Brunton said Wednesday during a ceremony to welcome LIAT’s ATR 72-600 to St. Vincent.

Brunton was speaking after chair of the airline’s board of directors, Dr. Jean Holder, who said that no matter what LIAT does, the press describes it as “cash-strapped”.

“And there is nothing truer. LIAT is cash-strapped,” Holder said as he defended the US$100 million being invested to re-fleet the 57-year-old airline.

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LIAT will by next year acquire 12 new aircraft, the first of which made its maiden flight to this country on Wednesday.

“That aircraft standing behind us is actually a game changer,” Brunton said of the ATR 72-600.

“It is not just an airplane; it is a game changer. It is going to change aviation in the Caribbean. It is going to change LIAT first and then aviation. But it will not be a game changer unless all of us, every stakeholder in this airline, every potential customer, every customer, every board member, every government minister, every stakeholder has to believe that we can change the game.

“We have to have the confidence and the passion and the vision to be able to change this game and make LIAT the product offering that it should have been many years ago. We are changing now,” he said.

Brunton said that the ATR 72-600 is a modern and quiet aircraft, which is highly technological but very cheap to run.

He said the new fleet will reduce LIAT’s operating cost by 35 per cent, added to the new fleet LIAT will have a “long holiday” before it has to incur the maintenance costs it now does for its current Dash-8 planes.