ANTIGUA OBSERVER – LIAT pilots have blamed a region-wide flu outbreak and the Zika virus for crew-affected illnesses that the airline said is costing it millions in revenue and affecting thousands of passengers.
OBSERVER media was recently afforded the opportunity to peruse documents that showed just how the absence of pilots and cabin crew — due to the illness — has taken a toll on the carrier’s already stretched resources.
According to the documents, so far, for this month alone, roughly 175 flights have been cancelled due to pilots calling in sick.
“To put this into perspective, LIAT operated around 1,600 flights so the pilots’ sickness caused the cancellation of 11 per cent, causing around 6,500 passengers’ flights to be cancelled,” the document revealed.
“In addition these cancellations caused significant delays and disruptions to over 15,000 passengers,” it added.
According to LIAT, the average number of flight cancellations for most airlines is around one per cent. But as a result the LIAT data, over 1,000 passengers have had to stay overnight in hotels because of the cancellations in November after approximately 200 pilots called in sick.
“This equates to around 14 per cent sickness with the industry average being between three and five per cent,” the leaked LIAT document stated.
It also revealed the number of sick days reported by cabin crew stood at 83 so far this November. “This equates to around 11 per cent sickness with the industry average being four per cent.
In total, LIAT estimates that these disruptions caused by crew sickness cost over EC $1 million in the past few weeks.
Captain Carl Burke who heads the association of LIAT pilots – LIALPA — has denied that the pilots reporting sick was the result of some form of industrial action.
He said LIAT’s recently publicised sick leave policy has forced more pilots to obtain certified sick leave for their illnesses.