The trade union that represents LIAT’s pilots has sought to distance itself from a video last week in which the airline issued a challenge to Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Atlantic.
The video was in response to Sir Richard tweeting to his three million followers a complaint about LIAT written by Arthur Hicks and published in the BVI Beacon earlier this year.
Many regional and international media houses picked up on the complaint after Sir Richard’s tweet.
LIAT pulled down the video from YouTube less than 24 hours after it was uploaded on Tuesday.
But other entities, including I-Witness News, had already downloaded the video and uploaded it to their own YouTube channels.
Citizens have criticised LIAT for the video in which LIAT’s director for commercial and customer experience, Leesa Parris-Rudder, challenged Sir Richard to a race to Necker Island, saying that the loser can wipe the other airline’s tail or Branson could dress up as a flight attendant for LIAT.
Critics say the video was insensitive and ignored Hicks’ complaint.
And, chair of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots’ Association (LIALPA), Captain Carl Burke said he was dumbfounded when he saw the video.
“When I saw the video, I was dumbfounded. I was in shock. I could not believe that this video was sanctioned by the management of LIAT,” Burke said, as reported by Antigua Observer newspaper.
“I did call Mr. [Ian] Brunton (chief executive officer of LIAT) on it and he gave me an explanation which I am not totally satisfied with,” Burke said.
“The fact of the matter is that they have tried to withdraw the video, but it is still viral in a way that it is still out there in some servers. While I have to be careful how I approach this, what I would like to say is that I think that the approach that we use was — it is unfortunate that we went about it that way. We could have taken a negative thing and turned it around positive and try to apologise to Mr. Hicks… Also, I don’t think we should have attacked Mr. Branson in that way,” he further stated.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, chair of LIAT’s shareholder government, said on Wednesday that Parris-Rudder handled the situation “quite well”.
“She poked fun at Sir Richard and she acknowledged that we do have challenges and we are working on them. But the specific case (Hicks’ complaint), they said they have been trying to track it down and they have not been able to,” Gonsalves said.
He, however, said decisions surrounding the video are management ones, in which he would not get involved.