LIAT chairman, Dr. Jean Holder. (LIAT photo)

Chair of LIAT’s board of directors, Dr. Jean Holder, has apologised to the regional airline’s customers, saying that the public should have been informed earlier about the disruption in service that would result from the on-going re-fleeting exercise.

The apology came Friday in Barbados at a ceremony for the signing of agreements relating to a loan of US$65 million from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to modernize LIAT’s Fleet.

The loan agreements provide for the loans to the LIAT shareholder governments — Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica — to be on-lent to, and repaid by, LIAT over a 13 years, following a two-year grace period.

(Read: CDB provides US$65 million loan for LIAT fleet modernisation)

LIAT is replacing its 20-year-old Dash-8 aircraft with ATR-700s and the SS$100 million re-fleeting exercise has resulted passengers in several destinations experiencing long delays and cancelled flights over the summer period.

“Apart from the monumental challenge of negotiating this sum of money (the US$65 million loan from the CDB), I wish to put on record that changing all your old aircraft for new aircraft of a different type, while training all your pilots and engineers in France to operate and service the new aircraft, while having the regulatory bodies in 21 different countries certify each new aircraft before it can operate to their country, simultaneously with continuing to operate a scheduled service to all countries at the busiest period of the year, and while the old aircraft continue to breakdown every day, is to say the least, an extremely difficult task. It has been hard on the public, for which I apologize, and it has been hard on the LIAT staff,” Holder said.

“On reflection the public should have been made aware much earlier of what LIAT was attempting to do, the timing of which was largely driven by external circumstances, and that disruptions in the service would be inevitable. At this point I promise you however that LIAT must and will do better,” he said.

The loan will help with LIAT ongoing re-fleeting excerise.
The loan will help with LIAT ongoing re-fleeting exercise.

He said that the light at the end of the tunnel is that by mid- January 2014, thanks to the CDB loans, seven of the 12 new aircraft will be in place and providing the public with “a better and more comfortable air transportation service across the Caribbean.

“We are also aware that the stresses and strains of the summer have tested the quality of our customer service and we are hard at work with a number of expert agencies in this area seeking to achieve the desired standards,” Holder further stated.

He said that in 2012, LIAT carried just under 800,000 Caribbean passengers.

“It is not clear how they would otherwise have done their various socio-economic tasks if LIAT did not fly them. With the help of the new aircraft we hope to increase the number of passengers exponentially,” said Holder, who again spoke of the important of the airline to the region.

“Without the connectivity of regional transportation, many of the territories in the Caribbean are condemned to be the specks of dust which French President, De Gaulle, so disdainfully christened them a few decades ago,” he said.

2 replies on “LIAT chairman apologises for disruptions caused by re-fleeting”

  1. Thanks, Boss. It sure took y’all long enough to squeeze out and cough up that tightly wrapped explanation.

  2. While the choice of timing to bring the new aircraft online during the busiest summer travel period is questionable at best, there are far too many instances of just blatantly poor customer service that are aircraft independent. You cannot blame aircraft for staff allowing five passengers more than the seating capacity to walk out to an aircraft and leave them standing on the tarmac in the rain while they try to figure out how to take folks off. Aircraft are not to blame for the fact that you do not know whether the number of pieces of luggage that are checked in equals the number of pieces that gets put on the aircraft, so a bag can get “stuck in the security scanner” and you do not know. They are not to blame for poor communications, where your staff knows that a crew worked late, and could not fly for five hours until after the scheduled time, but kept saying they didn’t know how soon the flight would operate, and as a result you send a flight with 50 pax to Barbados knowing that 35 would miss connections and have to be overnighted and rebooked on connections for the following day. The timing was poor, but the issues go well beyond that.

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