Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has added his voice to the chorus of criticism of the operation of regional airline LIAT.
Passengers on the airlines have been experiencing inordinately long delays — even by LIAT standards — over the past few weeks.
Gonsalves said on radio on Monday that the delays result partly because the airline has been retraining its pilots to fly the new ATR-72 aircraft.
LIAT currently has two of the 12 ATRs it plans to acquire over the next year.
But once the pilots are trained to fly the ATRs, they can no longer fly the Dash-8 aircraft, which currently make up the majority of the airline’s fleet.
Gonsalves, who is chair of LIAT’s shareholder governments, said on Monday that there are some issues related to LIAT and others resulting from entities providing services to the airline.
(Read also: More issues at LIAT as ATR aircraft is grounded)
He gave some examples, saying that on Friday, when he travelled to Barbados for a ceremony during which LIAT signed a loan agreement with the Caribbean Development bank, the 6 a.m. flight was 40 minutes late.
The delay resulted from a taxi contracted to pick up LIAT passengers who had to stay overnight, picking up those passengers late.
“Frankly speaking, people who are engaged to do pickups, we will have to insist that they do their pickups on time. And if a passenger was late when you are picking up, leave the passenger. They can’t hold the other 49 passengers because they got up late.”
Further, Gonsalves said that Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Godfrey Pompey, said that when he arrived at the airport around 5:25 a.m., only one LIAT agent was on call.
“Now, one person can’t deal with 40-something persons in an hour. … These kinds of actions must have consequences,” Gonsalves said.
He said he has asked local manager of LIAT, Dominic Patterson about these issues.
The Prime Minister further said he was telephoned around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday and was told a LIAT plane had arrived without aviation oxygen on board.
However, the Government only had the type of oxygen used at the hospital and the plane was grounded until around 3 p.m. when oxygen was flown in on another aircraft.
“Well whoever is responsible for that plane moving between the various places, [should have ensured] that when it left the last stop … there had been a sufficiency of oxygen aboard,” he said.
(Listen to or read the PM’s comment below)
“Now, these personnel issues, these issues of a lack of discipline in relation to some members of staff of LIAT and some persons who provide services for LIAT, it is just not acceptable and we have to speak out about this.
“I know the management, they have a lot of problems on their hands, but they’ve got to address these urgently.
“Because even when we get the 12 new planes, if these service problems remain, we are going to have improvement in one sense but we will be held back in another,” Gonsalves said.
He telephoned the radio programme on Monday after a caller complained about LIAT service.
Gonsalves said he was making the points so that the caller could see “I am on people’s case with this”.