Regional airline LIAT and international carrier Virgin Airlines discussed “the light-hearted interplay” that resulted in LIAT issuing a challenge to Virgin’s owner, Sir Richard Branson, last week, chief executive officer of LIAT, Ian Brunton, said on Monday.
Brunton said in a press release issued by LIAT that at the time of the discussion, Virgin’s Public Relations/Advertising Department was “willing to partner with LIAT in the planned engagement”.
Brunton’s comments came as he assured the traveling public of LIAT’s “continued commitment to raising the level of customer service offered by the airline”.
His assurance came as the fallout from the video challenge continues.
The video challenge of a race between Virgin and LIAT to Necker Island was withdrawn amidst negative feedback, less than 24 after it was issued.
The challenge came after Sir Richard tweeted to his three million followers a complaint letter written by longstanding LIAT customer, Arthur Hicks, published in a the BVI Beacon in April.
But Brunton said that as soon as the letter was brought to LIAT’s attention, an investigation was launched into the alleged service failures.
Leesa Rudder-Parris, LIAT’s Director of Commercial and Customer Experience, the department charged with handling all customer issues, contacted Hicks, LIAT said.
Rudder-Parris appeared in the challenge video and a more serious one that sought to address some of the issues that Hicks raised in his letter.
“Based on the information provided by Mr. Hicks during the telephone call, it is important to point out that the substantive letter was not by way of a complaint, but a light-hearted Facebook entry to his friends,” Brunton said.
“However, the letter was publicised when someone posted the Facebook entry as a letter in a newspaper in the British Virgin Islands.”
“The light-hearted interplay with Virgin was discussed with their Public Relations/Advertising Department and at that time they were willing to partner with LIAT in the planned engagement,” the LIAT statement further said.
The regional airline spoke of “the many emails sent to the company and comments in the social media which have been generated as a result of the developments surrounding Hicks’ letter”.
“To our employees, our millions of friends and valued customers, we have taken note of all your comments and suggestions. We appreciate all of them and express profound thanks,” Brunton said.
“In the face of serious challenges, our focus remains on improving customer experience and achieving profitability,” the CEO further said
The press release noted that a few weeks ago LIAT commenced an ambitious re-fleeting exercise, with 12 new ATR 600 series aircraft.
The exercise is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.
“Over the coming weeks and months we look forward to your continued cooperation and understanding as we proceed with our aggressive retooling exercise that includes the training of pilots and other staff to meet the new requirements,” Brunton said.
LIAT’s first two brand new ATR 72-600 aircraft commenced commercial service earlier this month with an additional four due to be added by the end of this year.
(Watch challenge video below)