LIAT’s reputation damaged by comments after CARICOM briefing, says St. Vincent PM

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LIAT’s reputation damaged by comments after CARICOM briefing, says St. Vincent PM
Gonsalves

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Mar 13, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says public comments about LIAT’s latest financial crisis made by participants at last month’s Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Inter-sessional summit in St. Kitts-Nevis have not helped the Antigua-based regional carrier in need of US$5.4 million to continue serving regional destinations.

Gonsalves told Parliament earlier this week that the principal shareholder government of LIAT provided information to the CARICOM meeting about the current financial condition and the immediate prospects for the survival or the development of LIAT in its existing framework.

Gonsalves, who is chair of LIAT’s shareholder governments, said some persons attending the CARICOM gathering “did not heed my request, settled and agreed upon, not to address this matter publicly until the shareholders and other prospective governments had an opportunity to resolve further some thorny issues touching and concerning LIAT”.

He told legislators that, unhelpfully, some participants at the conference “could not resist the temptation on leaving the conference to alarm the public with declarations such as ‘LIAT will run out of cash to operate in 10 days’, ‘LIAT will close down by the end of March 2019 if reluctant shareholder governments do not cough up some money’ ‘Even Ralph is fed up with LIAT’”.

The LIAT shareholder governments are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines with Trinidad and Tobago having a one per cent shareholding, which Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said his government does not acknowledge.

Rowley told a news conference at the Piarco International Airport on his return home from the February 27-28 summit that CARICOM leaders were told at the meeting in Basseterre that LIAT has enough “cash to last for 10 days”.

Gonsalves, who did not identify, by name, any of the subjects of his comments, said that one or two others who were not even at the conference decided, with hearsay and misinformation, to spread further fear and alarm.

“One minister even dusted off an insulting and tired declaration that his government ‘is not going to be an ATM machine for LIAT,” Gonsalves said, an apparent reference to Barbados Tourism Minister, Kerrie Symmonds, who was quoted in the media as saying that Bridgetown, the airline’s biggest shareholder would not be the only ATM for LIAT.

Symmonds said that while Barbados remained interested in keeping the airline running, other governments would have to contribute.

Gonsalves told lawmakers that history, in all its banality, through infelicitous language, repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce.

“The farcical outbursts had a predictably damaging effect on LIAT in terms of reputational damage, uncertainty among the large travelling public across the region and a rush by LIAT’s creditors for monies owed before the supposedly imminent arrival of doomsday.”

Gonsalves said that it is precisely because of his appreciation of the likely adverse impact of “unfiltered, unnecessarily alarmist or even wrong pronouncements, that I had urged restraint in public utterances for the time being on this most vital matter”.

He said that such pronouncements even prompted inquiries to LIAT’s management from the Federal Aviation Authority of the United States about LIAT’s capacity to service its routes to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

“In the wake of this unwarranted and gratuitous damage to LIAT, its management was compelled to issue a statement distancing itself from the doomsday scenarios and provide assurances of continued services,” Gonsalves said prior to travelling to Barbados for a meeting of the major shareholder governments, along with the airline’s management and the trade unions representing its employees, to discuss the latest crisis facing the airline.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Keep pouring money into LIAT without demanding major changes. The usual suspects will be back in 6, 12, 18, 24, 30 months (and all future 6-month intervals, ad infinitum) for even more cash to prop up the airline business run by political friends asked to "see what they could do" with it - no qualifications in aviation at all required by Board or management.

    Chairman and Board, ditto... just do a politician a favour, and BAM, you are a LIAT Board Member. Now sit back, and the largesse will roll in, along with the free flights and all the free sugary soft drinks you can guzzle.

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  2. Mr. Gonsalves has balls the size of breadfruit trees to be telling the Press that someone damaged LIAT's reputation. Gonsalves has himself overseen the largest financial catastrophe in LIAT's history AND last year forced LIAT to put a brand new aircraft and its entire crew in harms way landing on an incomplete runway - the culverts were still wide open - of an airport which was still UNCERTIFIED and UNINSURED.

    Had Murphy's Law come into play and ANY kind of incident occurred, there would have been NO insurance and LIAT would have faced permanent closure from public lack of confidence in the Board, management and the aircraft type, not to mention the EC-CAA - WHICH KNEW ABOUT IT BEFOREHAND and MUST have sanctioned the foolish exercise in political bravado.

    Time for Fat Boy to be cycled out and someone from another country replace him as shareholkder Chairman. Comrade Fat Ralph has used LIAT as his play toy for too long now.

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  3. No sensible investor pours money into a failing enterprise. No siree Bob. It suits certain shareholders to argue for the retention of the status quo. They benefit with employment in their own countries. For them, that too, is good politics. That wins them elections.

    Clearly, reread taht in all of the explanations given, we see little or no concern for those who use and travel with LIAT. That company operating as a monopoly is not customer-centric. It is not customer-focussed. LIAT has a monopoly of the skies in the region. How come, that up to now, it cannot make a profit?

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    • If you go to a supermarket with a monopoly, which sells a mango for $50 , unless you really need that mango you will not buy it . So the mango stays there until it spoils or maybe someone buys it .
      Its the same with liat and the tax. The ticket is so high because of tax that people travel ONLY by necessity and leisure travel is probably one off. But liat keeps flying the routes even when its empty . Whether liat be privatized or another company comes, the end result will be the same as fuel , staff ,leases still all have to be paid with 10 people on a plane which carries 48 or 68. Never make a profit this way . This is why airline seats for some airlines are subsidised . Why NOT liat ?

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