Liat gets okay to renew fleet
The three shareholders of regional airline (LIAT) today gave the company’s management the green light to upgrade its ageing fleet and expand its routes.
Chairman of the LIAT shareholder Prime Ministers – Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines – who joined his Antiguan counterpart, Baldwin Spencer and host Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart for a meeting here, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that LIAT’s fleet of 18 Dash-8 aircraft is ageing and the airline is presently paying an average of US$1.2 million in maintenance cost per plane yearly.
He said after receiving two detailed presentations from a fleet planning committee, they agreed in principle to roll out a new fleet as soon as possible.
“As you know LIAT has 18 planes in its fleet of varying ages, some of them are pretty old though they’re well maintained and the time has come for us to consider retiring some of these planes,” Gonsalves said.
“This is a process clearly and we were discussing the framework for the retirement of these planes…enough has been laid out to the shareholders for us to give the go-ahead for the fleet renewal and with different types of options.”
Gonsalves said shareholders first agreed to a fleet upgrade in 2009. At that time he had announced that the venture would cost US$54 million.
When asked how soon the new planes would be ordered, Gonsalves said there was still some work to be done before an order is placed.
“The planes are not just hanging around like a second-hand car downtown in Bridgetown or Kingstown. We’ll have to order them if they are new planes…then you’d have to look at the terms of the purchase, all the conditions and so on,” he said.
Gonsalves said LIAT was also looking at the concept of using, on some of the routes currently served by LIAT, not just the turbo-prop service but to use a jet service.
“…in some newer routes in the Caribbean and Latin America, not currently served by any Caribbean airline, perhaps a jet service in addition to existing turbo-prop service with the Dash-8 aircraft would be useful. A proper study on the viability of some of the new routes, which conceptually it would be useful to go into, all that work has to be done but the work will be done expeditiously,” Gonsalves added. (CMC)