Dominica will support any entity that is formed to replace LIAT – PM Skerrit

By Dominica News Online,

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit says the government and people of Dominica stand ready to support any entity that is to take over the operations of Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT).

The prime minister announced during his weekly Anou Palay programme on Sunday that LIAT would be liquidated following a series of financially unsuccessful months due to Covid-19.

He said the majority shareholders of LIAT – Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda, St Vincent & the Grenadines and Dominica – met Saturday and his government received a report from the Board of Directors “drawing to our attention to certain issues confronting LIAT 1974 limited.”

He said the airline will be formed into a new entity that will provide connections between the Caribbean islands.

“I am convinced as a regionalist/integrationist that whatever new entity comes up that the people of Dominica must provide whatever support within their means, to ensure that we have interregional travel,” he said. “LIAT has shown its capacity, its abilities, obviously confronting challenges pre COVID and [which] certainly worsened in the COVID period.”

Skerrit said the next step will be a meeting of all the shareholders so concrete decisive action can be taken.

He said this is not a time to be daunted as LIAT has served with excellence in spite of their financial issues but these are extra-ordinary difficult times and there are certain actions that must be taken.

“I will say that we will all agree that LIAT 1974 Limited has served Dominica well,” he stated. “We have had challenges in the past with delayed flights or cancellation of flights, but we have to say that LIAT has been good to us not only in Dominica but the entire Caribbean.”

Meantime, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has said, through a CMC report, that the Antigua-based regional airline owes its staff an estimated EC$94 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) in severance and holiday payment, which it is unable to pay.

Gonsalves, who is the chair of the shareholder governments of the airline, gave an insight into the financial affairs of the company following a meeting of the shareholder governments last weekend.

He told radio listeners in St. Vincent that he had received a report from the board of directors and the management on the critical financial position of the airline. He said LIAT was having problems since 2017, but the hurricanes that year put the airline “in a tailspin” and into 2018.

Gonsalves said the management sent their salaries for May, June, July and overdue payroll liabilities but the company is insolvent and doesn’t have any assets “to pay anybody anything.”

Prime Minister Gonsalves said that the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank owns three of the aircraft that LIAT operates and has a priority charge on them.

“And then the rest of the planes are leased and in due course, they would have to send them back, unless, of course, a new entity which arises leases them from the lessors,” Gonsalves said.

LIAT has 10 aircraft in its fleet, split equally among 48-seater ATR 42-600 and 68-seater ATR 72-600.

Main photo: Passengers boarding a LIAT aircraft