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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says the service offered to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) by Turks and Caicos-based InterCaribbean Airways is “absolutely terrible” and that he is awaiting documents related to a “new LIAT”.

“The service is terrible. The service is absolutely terrible. And all what you guys said this morning on the radio about it, I support. It is a terrible service,” he said on radio on Sunday.

Over the past months, InterCaribbean passengers have been complaining about long delays, some of which have resulted in them missing international connections.

In some instances, InterCaribbean Airways passengers have had to shell out thousands of dollars to buy new tickets for their international connections because of the late or non-operation of the airline’s flights.

In late July, Arlene John complained in an email to iWitness News that the airline needs to go out of business, adding, “It’s so unprofessional that they don’t know how to communicate with their customers.

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John said she was scheduled to leave St. Vincent on a 7.30 p.m. flight to Barbados but the aircraft had to go to St. Lucia first then fly back to St. Vincent before taking passengers to Barbados.

“I had to buy a new ticket to get to my destination. When I asked how am I gonna be refunded, a rude reply was ‘go to reservation’. How inconvenient!”

She said the return flight was scheduled to depart at 6 p.m. but nothing was said to passengers until after 10 p.m. when airline staff said passengers would be accommodated at a hotel and would be picked up at 7 a.m. for the flight.   

John said that no one showed up at the hotel at 7 a.m.

“They don’t want to refund you or put you on a different flight. A bunch of lame … excuses they giving you … People have work and family to go back to; even people with medical conditions who left their medication thinking that they gonna get back home in time to take it and we are stranded in another man’s country like homeless people…” John told iWitness News.

Speaking on “Issue At Hand” on WE FM, Gonsalves said he was awaiting a document from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) “for a new LIAT”. 

LIAT, which had a long stint of financial trouble and was plagued by some of the same problems that InterCaribbean passengers complain about, was liquidated in 2020.

Before its liquidation, the airline was owned by the government of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, SVG and Dominica.

St. John’s then established LIAT 2020, which operates a limited number of flights across the region.

Gonsalves said he suggested to the president of the CDB and his team a few weeks ago, that their estimate for starting the new airline was “a little on the lower side, knowing what we went through when we did the re-fleeting of LIAT”.

In 2013, CDB provided loans totalling US$65 million to the four shareholder governments of LIAT to assist with the purchase of aircraft in the context of a fleet modernisation project.

Gonsalves said Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne had sent two of his officials to talk to him “about an initiative which he was having but I was suggesting that we don’t need to have these initiatives at cross purposes.

“There can be initiatives together and I raised some issues also with them.”

Gonsalves said he used to beg leaders across the Caribbean to put money into LIAT, either in equity or market support

“When men and women getting a free ride, they ain’t paying you attention and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I talk, talk, talk, talk to people and then you had a lot of persons who not studying the thing carefully, ‘Oh, Ralph putting too much money in LIAT’ and so on.”

Gonsalves said that when Barbados, for its own fiscal reasons, thought it could not continue investing in LIAT, he told Browne that Kingstown and St. John’s could not carry the airline along.

He said the “funny thing” about it is that there were people in SVG, including in Parliament, “the opposition beated me, beated me all the time. ‘Wah you doing, you wasting government money.’

“You heard all the know-alls on the radio and so on. Now, of course, they are apologising. Not those in the NDP (New Democratic Party). Other people saying, ‘I am sorry; we didn’t understand it that way’ …

“I have dedicated my life to this region and this country. I am not going to talk to people anything which I consider to be wrong or false or anything like that as regards public policy. I come straight with you and explain to you, just as I do with the NIS (National Insurance Services),” Gonsalves said.

He said LIAT used to operate six or seven flights a day into St. Vincent with those numbers increasing to eight or nine during Carnival or Christmas.

“So, we had 40-something flights per week with LIAT, which was a big, big help,” Gonsalves said.

“CAL is putting in some things,” the prime minister further stated, adding that he was working with Mustique Company, which has five 19-seater aircraft, one of which is being serviced now.

“I want to see if we can get them with a little more regular service, a regular service out of St. Vincent to Barbados, Trinidad, neighbouring islands, St. Lucia and the like. 

“I have actually asked them if they can purchase three more to add to the fleet. And so, we can in a way help to service some of our demand, while we get full solutions.”

Gonsalves has become the second CARICOM politician to complain publicly in recent times about InterCaribbean’s service.

Last week, Guyana’s Public Works Minister, Juan Edghill told the airline it could face sanctions if it does not avoid prolonged flight delays and cancellations.

Edghill said senior government officials as well as representatives of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority met with representatives of the airline last week to address repeated concerns by travellers and that the airline had indicated that there were issues with crew and other internal matters.

“If they don’t fulfil those obligations that they made last week Thursday, we will have to step in and take additional actions or possible sanctions,” Edghill told Demerara Waves Online News.

2 replies on “InterCaribbean provides ‘absolutely terrible’ service, Gonsalves says”

  1. Comrade you were chief in command when Liat went under now you are asking for the role of a savour? Why should anyone take you seriousl?. Rabble rousing and Sable rattling won’t help.

  2. Nathan J Green says:

    Wasn’t the fat comrade the root cause of LIATS failure, or was he the cause of hundreds losing money with LIAT? Can someone remind me I forgot.

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