LIAT denies CPL claims
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Sept 3, CMC – The Antigua-based regional airline, Tuesday denied a regional newspaper that the founder of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) lost millions of dollars as a result of the operations of the airline during the competition last month.
The Barbados Sunday Sun newspaper quoted businessman Ajmal Khan as describing the airline service as a “travesty” and that the cash-strapped airline had cost tournament organizers “millions of dollars” in additional expenses because of air travel woes.
“It had a big impact and the travesty of what we had to deal with in the transportation of players and equipment showing up 30 minutes before the game starts. It was disgraceful,” he said.
But in a statement, LIAT said it was first contacted by CPL concerning the logistics of transporting teams and crew in late July and a meeting was held on July 25 “a mere five days before the official start of the tournament”.
LIAT said that during the meeting, CPL representatives indicated that they were seeking guarantees from the airline “for timely transportation of players, crew and baggage.
“As this request came at the 11th hour and at a time when we were experiencing several challenges with delays and cancellations, LIAT made it clear to the CPL representatives that while it would do its best to transport the teams and crews on time, no guarantees could be offered since many of the challenges that were being experienced were beyond the airline’s control.
“LIAT’s representatives also noted that the only way to offer the guarantees that were being requested was to charter several aircraft and at the time LIAT was unable to offer these services as all aircraft were currently being utilized,” the airline said.
LIAT, which flies to more than 20 destinations in the region, said CPL had also been informed that “with an event the size and magnitude of the CPL, contact should have been made with the airline several months in advance in order set the necessary mechanisms in place for the management of the event”.
The airline said it made reference to the 2007 Cricket World Cup held in the Caribbean with the International Cricket Council contacting airlines at an early stage and established an air transportation committee comprising LIAT and other carriers.
“Separate and special arrangements were made to transport cricketers and baggage. At the end of that tournament not a single cricketer was left behind and not one bag lost. In the case of the CPL event, cricketers were booked in the same manner as members of the travelling public and contact with LIAT was made only when there was a problem.”
LIAT said that the newspaper article quoted Khan as referring to the service as a “travesty” but failed to acknowledge that “CPL chartered the services of another airline to transport players between Trinidad and Antigua.
“It is that flight which arrived 30 minutes before the commencement of the match on August 12, 2013. LIAT transported cricketers for all matches held in its network and they arrived well in advance of the planned start time. LIAT had indicated to CPL beforehand its limitations in transporting bags for the players.
“It is grossly unfair that neither the CPL official nor the Barbados Nation reporter has specified how “LIAT cost tournament organizers millions of dollars in additional expenses”.
LIAT said it was now looking forward to the CPL becoming a permanent fixture on the West Indies cricket scene, and would be privileged to be part of a transportation solution.
“However, it is naïve and unreasonable to expect the airline to take on the full responsibility, given such late notice, even under the best of circumstances.”
The airline, which in recent months has come under severe criticism from the travelling public, said that it is now undergoing a period of massive change “as we renew our entire fleet of aircraft to provide a better product offering to our customers.
“As a leading regional carrier, LIAT is willing to work with the CPL for the purpose of bringing cricket to the people of the region. For the success of future events, this will necessitate that LIAT is included in all transportation plans at an early stage.”