By Peter Richards

Miss Carival contestants and other travels in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, were affected by LIAT cancellations and delays last weekend. (Photo: Facebook)
Miss Carival contestants and other travels in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, were affected by LIAT cancellations and delays last weekend. (Photo: Facebook)

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne Tuesday defended the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, from criticism about its performance, saying that if it did not exist “one would have had to be invented”.

On Monday, St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet had told reporters that the airline “needs to operate in the context of the private sector”.

The major shareholders of the airline are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. But the company, which has been suffering tremendous losses over the years, has come in for much criticism from the Caribbean travelling public over poor customer service, delayed and cancelled flights and overall high costs of airfares to its destinations.

Calls by the major shareholders for other governments to invest in LIAT in the past have not been successful with many regional leaders making references to the airline’s financial situation among other concerns.

“Transportation is critical to integration. I have made my position very clear that LIAT needs to be liberalised. LIAT needs to operate in the context of the private sector and I am not convinced that a monopoly in transportation is going to work,” Chastanet said.

But Browne said he has no doubt that LIAT is serving the purpose of moving Caribbean people which is significant to integration and if there isn’t a LIAT, we certainly would have to invent one”.

He acknowledged that there were deficiencies within the operations of the Antigua-based airline,” but some of the problems associated with LIAT including profitability are more about market structure and having more players will not necessarily be making things any different, because the airline industry is capital intensive”.

Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne. (CMC photo)
Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne. (CMC photo)

Browne said that LIAT is spreading very large capital over a very small population base “and that is one of the reasons too why prices are relatively high compared to other large destinations where these airlines are able to spread their capital costs over a larger population base.

“So there are some structural issues that are unavoidable and I have no doubt that LIAT is likely to require some form of subsidy in order to ensure its survival and to effectively be in a position to move Caribbean people.

“Not to make the point that LIAT should not be efficient,” he said adding, “clearly we would have to minimise the level of subsidies because Caribbean countries are not in the best financial position and certainly not in the position to be profligate in ”their support for LIAT.”

Prime Minister Browne said that “we are being extremely hard on LIAT, we are not looking at the market structure, we are not looking at the other market idiosyncrasies associated with small states with very limited resources, the capital intensive nature of the airline industry and the fact that LIAT is providing a public good that is essential to the integration programme”.

He said “we travel to other countries, we use other airlines and when they are extremely late we don’t make a big issue about it but if LIAT is a few minutes late it becomes a crisis.

“There has to be some level of tolerance not for inferior performance but to understand that human error will always happen and that there’s likely to be delays from time to time,” Browne added.

5 replies on “Antigua PM defends LIAT against critics”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    Gaston Browne must be living ion another planet when he so strongly defends LIAT as the following customer reviews of the airline’s performance suggest:

    http://www.airlinequality.com/airline-reviews/liat/

    As for me, I will be flying to and from SVG using SVG Air or Mustique Airways from now on. This is much more expensive, for sure, but if you want to substantially increase your chance of making your connecting flight or avoiding having to overnight in Barbados, this is the only way to travel.

  2. People like PM Brown and illegal PM Gonsalves need to stop making excuses for liat’s shortcomings and blatant disrespect for the islands travelling public, go to the drawing board in a positive way and come up with the solutions for liat’s inefficiencies and disrespect to all island peoples, especially vincentians whom liat seem to be beating real hard with their “rod of correction”. I think liat is appreciated but what is not appreciated is liat’s disrespect and neglect to passengers when flights are, for one reason or the other, being delayed for very long periods. When one get to Barbados or Trinidad from Canada at about 2 or 3 o’clock, why does one have to get to SVG at midnight or next day because of liat’s crappy scheduling or lack of care or concern for their passengers? I say, if liat can’t handle the heat anymore, get out of the kitchen and give another airline the chance at delivering good service to us small islands sky travellers.

  3. SOMEONE PLEASE HIRE A MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT TO WEED OUT THE ‘CRONIES’

    TOO MANY COUSINS AND FRIENDS OF MANAGEMENT AND OF THE POLITICIANS THAT ‘WORK’ FOR LIAT

    NO WONDER ITS’ BROKE…….

  4. I had made a comment but, as usual, Kenton Chance did not post it. I mentioned nothing except who steers the ideas of Liat and he is again too scared to post it. I suggest Kenton get better legal advice if he wants to have a forum where people with better minds than our political leaders can give these incompetent policy makers better advice.

  5. I do not know if it is comforting to hear that other leaders here in the Caribbean are more out of touch with reality than our leader or if it should worry me. It would be interesting to get all these leaders together, led by Obama and Angela Merkel and make a comedy documentary to show future generations. It could be worse…Hillary is coming!

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