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Irma costing LIAT millions

SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, [email protected]

Irma costing LIAT millions

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HURRICANE IRMA will cost LIAT millions of dollars in financial losses.

Chief executive officer Julie Reifer-Jones yesterday revealed that the regional airline’s current inability to operate commercial flights in and out of St Maarten and Tortola meant it was likely to lose about $4.4 million (EC$6 million) between now and the end of the year.

Reifer-Jones was unable to give an estimated figure for likely losses during the entire hurricane season. However, speaking during a media conference call with regional media yesterday, she said the overall financial fallout would be “quite substantial”.

Overall, the airline was forced to cancel 33 flights since during Hurricane Irma’s deadly passage, its planes could not fly north of Dominica.

“Regional travel is very dependent on what’s happening in the economies of the region and of course any horrific event of this sort will impact certain territories and also the region as a whole. And that will impact regional travel and LIAT. Frankly, this is one of the complexities facing a regional airline like LIAT,” she said.

“Two years ago it was Dominica, today it is St Maarten and Tortola impacting our network. And based on previous experience it takes some time before recovery takes place. For us, St Maarten and Tortola are very key destinations in our network. We have done some preliminary assessments and we think that the negative impact on LIAT will be in the region of EC$6 million through to the end of the year.”

As a result, the CEO said the airline’s commercial team was “looking at our flight schedules to determine whether there are some other opportunities for us to reposition aircraft to be able to generate some additional revenue in other areas.”

LIAT, which is based in Antigua, confirmed that its entire staff was safe and the company suffered minimal damage. In the interest of safety, the air carrier relocated aircraft and some of its staff to Barbados over the last week, but between Tuesday and yesterday, they all returned to Antigua.

“I believe all the teams that were in Barbados have moved back. Certainly the fleet has been realigned to match our normal operational requirements. We had an engineering team in Barbados, they have been relocated, the call centre has moved back up, the operations team for sure is in Antigua,” Reifer-Jones said. (SC)