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EDITORIAL – Facing up to these airline challenges

luigimarshall, [email protected]

EDITORIAL – Facing up to these airline challenges

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LAST WEEK’S announcement of a threatened cut in “unprofitable routes” by regional airline LIAT should underscore the need for an urgent special meeting of Caribbean Community ministers responsible for air transportation.
The moreso as that warning has come from the CARICOM Head of Government with lead responsibility for air and sea transportation, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Just a few weeks earlier, Prime Minister Baldwin?Spencer, of Antigua and Barbuda, went public with a plea that in view of financial and other challenges facing LIAT other governments should consider helping to fund the airline in partnership with major shareholders Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The problems for LIAT clearly warrant more focused attention in the face of serious inconveniences being faced by air travellers due to operational challenges experienced by the new REDJet airline in servicing routes linking Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.
The latest example was last Friday’s cancellation by REDjet of all flights by its two aircraft – stranding 600 passengers – as a consequence of reported mechanical problems.        
 It would be recalled that there were no ministerial meetings to discuss the implications of REDjet airline as a likely competitor to Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) and LIAT prior to the at times public emotional controversies over its efforts to secure licences to fly to Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica.
Last week, following a meeting of leaders of the three major shareholder governments Gonsalves warned that unless the governments of other states that benefit from the services of LIAT were now prepared to help in funding the airline, “the unprofitable routes will simply have to be cut . . . . It is simple as that”.
The shared position of the shareholder governments is that countries subsidizing foreign airlines to boost their tourism industry should not continue to ignore the need to also help LIAT which has been serving this region for more than half a century.
So, will there be a meaningful initiative, and soon, for a special meeting of CARICOM ministers responsible for civil aviation and air transportation to discuss related problems involving LIAT and now REDjet?
Better, it seems, for them to put heads together instead of a continuation of open verbal disagreements amid growing public apprehension about the future for reliable and satisfactory intra-regional air services.