THE AL GILKES COLUMN: A-plus for LIAT’s new ATRs
Sometime last year I read that the regional airline LIAT was moving to improve its passenger comfort and operational efficiency by replacing all of its Dash 8 aircraft with the French-built ATR aircraft. I read that the re-fleeting would see the ageing Dash 8 aircraft being replaced with 12 new ATR-600 series 68- and 48-seaters.
I read that by the first quarter of 2014, more than half of the new aircraft would be operating throughout LIAT’s network, with the remaining airplanes expected to come on line by the end of the year.
I read LIAT’s Acting Chief Executive Officer, Julie Reifer-Jones, describing the arrival of the fifth of the ATRs as significant since it was the first new plane to be piloted from Europe to the Caribbean exclusively by a LIAT flight crew of captains Chris Cameron and Phil Gunsam. Also on board were flight engineer Gregory Marcano and quality manager William Lewis.
I read her underscoring the new aircraft as helping to improve LIAT’s operational performance and thanking customers and stakeholders for their patience and support during the US$107 million transition to the ATRs.
I read her noting that on several routes “our passengers are already experiencing the comfort of our new ATR 72s” and that in addition to the introduction of new aircraft into the fleet, the airline had been able to stabilize its flight schedules throughout the Caribbean.
I read her proclaiming: “By the end of this year (2013), we will have six new aircraft and this should improve our operational performance considerably.”
I am happy to report that I have just has my first experience flying in one of the new ATR 72s from Barbados to Grenada and it was everything and more that Reifer-Jones said it would be. Compared to the old Dash 8, the level of comfort is comparable to being on a big-bodied jet aircraft heading for a big city.
Being accustomed to the rigid Dash 8 seats, I thought something was falling apart then the seat in front of me appeared to be falling back into my lap. It was only when it stopped at an angle, again similar to the large jets, and after checking my own that I realized the seats were recliners.
Even more praiseworthy was the quality of the air-conditioning. This was the real deal and a far cry from another recent flight on a Dash 8, which was so warm that most of the passengers had to use the in-flight magazines as fans. In addition, the smooth ride was made more pleasurable by the significantly reduced engine noise, compared to that of the Dash 8.
My congratulations to LIAT and its decision to move in this direction of upgrading its fleet with these new aircraft before new competition flies in. But in front of every silver living there is always some dark cloud and here was the dark cloud of that ATR flight.
Mrs Reifer-Jones, believe it or not, but it took me and the other passengers more than four, yes 4, hours to reach from Barbados to Grenada. The flight was scheduled to leave at 8.05 p.m. but didn’t do so until after 11 p.m. and, again believe it or not, nobody remembered to tell us why.
But, keep on doing what you are doing.