LIAT chief executive officer Julie Reifer-Jones. (GP)
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ST JOHN’S – The financially strapped regional airline, LIAT, Friday said it would continue to operate across the region and has sought to re-assure passengers that it would continue to operate in a “safe and efficient manner”.
The airline’s chief executive officer, Julie Reifer-Jones, responding to reports that the airline is facing severe financial problems and could possibly be grounded in the coming days, said that while the Antigua-based airline is in a challenging financial situation, “LIAT has continued flying through the region with support from its principal shareholders”.
The major shareholders are the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Thursday night said while his country has a “miniscule” shareholding in LIAT, “it is not the intention of Trinidad and Tobago to get involved in any ownership or subsidy arrangements with LIAT.
“However, the heads of government (at their summit in St Kitts and Nevis earlier this week) were informed that LIAT is in serious financial difficulties, meaning within a matter of a fortnight an injection of a minimum of five million US dollars is needed in order to keep flying.
“Now if LIAT ceases to fly, I need not tell you the economic and other impact that would have on the region. While Trinidad and Tobago does not rely heavily on LIAT for transportation the other territories are virtually at the mercy of a LIAT service,” Rowley told reporters, adding that the meeting noted “this is a matter for the shareholders of LIAT”.
Earlier this week, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said shareholder governments would need to do what is necessary in order to save the financially strapped regional airline, LIAT.
“Whatever is necessary to save LIAT will be quintessential for all stakeholders to cooperate. It does not matter the sacrifice that is required, we all have to make sure that we play a role to keep LIAT in the air,” he said.
Reifer-Jones said that the airline has also been operating to destinations where there has been no support from governments and authorities to ensure that critical connectivity remains.
She said that the current discussions with regional governments are intended to put in place new arrangements which provide a basis for sharing the burden amongst all the countries currently benefitting from LIAT’s services.
The chief executive officer said that all stakeholders, whether labour, suppliers or financiers will be called upon to make adjustments aimed at achieving a viable airline operation.
The airline has already been working to improve its On-Time Performance, and she indicated that 83 per cent of the airline’s flights were on time in 2018.
The airline is currently undergoing a restructuring exercise which is expected to improve the operations of the airline as the company moves to build a sustainable model.
LIAT currently operates 491 flights weekly across its network of 15 destinations. (CMC)