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The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

LIAT has continued to fail the Caribbean — falling short of all expectations!

LIAT has meant so much to the imagination that the reality shocks most travelers within the Caribbean basin. Like every company LIAT has its problems that seemed to be unremittingly depressing. I gradually realized that many of the existing situations are really simple curable problems. The cherished circumstance of LIAT is not a myth or political efficacies or ideologies; rather it is careful analysis of the experiences and evidence of the environment it has created overtime. The dilapidated planes and equipment and its ineffective operations have disrupted business and leisure travel, which has ignited a myriad of complaints and disputes, leaving many loyal customers dissatisfied. Coupled with this, it’s seemingly incompetent CEO and unplanned schedules have created a pyramid of financial losses that have forced its stakeholders to pump millions, and an ineffective work force and communication system that leave its customers disgruntled and scrambling for answers!

Moreover, CMC’s recent interview with the CEO has sparked even more demeaning questions! An interview that I’d described as futile — trifles the regional initiative from answers that seemed ambiguous.

As the CEO, who spoke with what appears to be a British accent, uttered the reasons for LIAT’s failure, I wondered if he had spoken with a Caribbean accent if he’d be relieved of his duties as CEO for the many years of what appeared to be annual financial losses, consequent of an incessant bad business environment — and considering that LIAT is the region’s only carrier.

Instead, the stakeholders of this anticompetitive ailing company are investing millions of dollars each year to bail out its failed operations, subsequent to its horrendous financial losses to keep the airlines flying in the Caribbean sky — a move that insinuates lack of vision, minimal strategic planning and insight. Here, the billion dollar question evokes — if LIAT does not have competition, why these huge losses?

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Let’s discuss!

Opinionatedly, and let me reiterate, LIAT does not need millions of tax payers’ dollars or any kind for the company to stay operational and profitable; however, there are a number of factors needed to be functional, which define effectiveness, efficiency and accuracy.

First, the stakeholders must rid of the blight in LIAT — the CEO and other management staff that continuously fail to develop effective strategies. In so doing LIAT could become profitable if its scheduling is changed — one that’s supports customers’ needs and wants. Ideally, this company has to quit sending north bound passengers all the way south before heading to their required destinations and vice versa, ensure that passengers are on the ground before their connecting flights departed, and stop flying past passengers’ destination to Barbados then back with little or no passengers bound for the Land of Flying Fish. These and more corrections could sustain LIAT operational viability.

Hitherto, LIAT must train it staff especially in customer service and LIAT’s rules and regulation, procedures, policy and systems through a company handbook, classroom lectures and on-the-job training. My observation is that LIAT’s staff at Grantley Adams International Airport has proven to be the worst. Clearly, the staff in Aeropuerto de las Americas in Santo Domingo needs to be given the opportunity to make certain decision rather than having to contact LIAT’s Antigua office for advice and confirmation. Additionally, the staff in Santo Domingo needs to be given the necessary tools to work with as they are only permitted to send emails and wait for answer instead of picking up the phone and call. Coupled with this, more efforts should be placed on the transfers and movement of baggage. In this aspect LIAT has never got it right.

Notwithstanding LIAT’s weak communication system! Everyone would agree that communication is the backbone of all companies thriving in a modern workplace environment. Intuitively, staff must respond to complaints and disputes in a timely fashion and with professionalism – often LIAT flights are delayed or cancelled and passengers are unaware.

Additionally, the regional airline must be able to identify gaps and provide solutions that wow its customers and its staff must be held accountable or their inactions and shortcomings. Management should be able to motivate its staff and frequent planning and training and development must be part of daily operations.

My favorite is the absence of competition LIAT doesn’t have to worry about. Hence, coupled with the factors explained above LIAT needs competition — a competitive environment that would force the company to “step up” its game and fight to stay on the “playing field”. As suggested by many West Indians, LIAT would not improve its operations and scheduling until it is confronted by rivals.

As a new strategy, our regional pride must operate beyond the borders of the Caribbean into international destination — not withholding Latin American countries: Venezuela, Panama, Belize and Mexico; and cities in North America: Toronto, New York and Miami in addition to other Caribbean nations not presently served by LIAT: Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands and Haiti. To make this a reality, bigger planes must be introduced to the fleet as we are seeing now. Furthermore, LIAT must ally itself with other stakeholders within the tourism and travel industry: car rentals, hotels and other airlines. These strategies are not copied and pasted, but derived from careful analysis of LIAT’s daunting operations and schedules, which was sent in an original operational plan to LIAT. If I received a feedback, I’d be lucky!

Meanwhile, another question has surfaced!

Why West Indians have not spoken out against the American Eagle airlines not servicing the Caribbean? A move that would create more employment throughout, forced the prices of air ticket down, create additional options and traffics, and other economic development — regionally.

Henceforth, are you optimistic about LIAT’s future?

I am not — for the same reason that LIAT’s problems have been reoccurring, suggesting LIAT’s inability to identify problems and find workable solutions.

West Indians we have given LIAT decades to improve its service; yet it failed us miserably. I recommend that we encourage and seek another airline company that would provide exceptional service through competent manaers, effective communication and problems solving, accuracy through its operations and schedules and whose stakeholders utilize their time to help in the planning and decision making process.

West Indian it is time we call up American Eagle! LIAT is the perfect storm!

D. Markie Spring

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

4 replies on “LIAT: The perfect storm”

  1. D. Markie Spring, you are right on spot. In the case of SVG, another airline had applied to PM’s office to start operating in SVG but our PM shot it down. LIAT staff at Grantly Adams behaves as if they are untouchable – among other things, they don’t apologise. I believe a competition will ship out LIAT because service/management is less than poor.

    1. The staff in Barbados do exactly what they were trained to do. By the way, it’s a handling company. The base is in Antigua so any changes, answers or screw ups comes from there and the staff in Barbados cannot do anything about it. They are stuck in the policy comply and then complain but no one listens to them. So please don’t blame the rest of the body, blame the brain. By the way, BGI staff work nowadays 12 to sometimes 16hr straight because of the situation. Please ask LIAT base office to have a on line update system available to passengers and staff info on it’s flights from on time, en route, delays and flight changes and explanations of why rather then leaving passengers and staff lost and frustrated.

  2. MARKIE SPRING, I doubt that anything that threatens LIAT such as American Eagle and cheaper seats, will be allowed by Gonsalves, its not in his mode of operandi.

    Unfortunatly any company in government control is on a loosing wicket, but with 5 governments, can you imagine?

    How do we pull the plug after signing as guarantors or huge multi million US$ loans.

    I suppose the only answer may be to find a buyer, and be prepared to mak a hugely substantial loss on our shareholding and equity.

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