Basseterre, St. Kitts, Monday, 13th March, 2019, (MyVueNews.com) – Once again LIAT is in financial trouble. And once again it is turning to the governments of the Caribbean to bail it out. It is a story that is all too familiar and has had many lives throughout the decades.
While in the past, the government of St. Kitts and Nevis has declined offers to provide financial support, it seems like the Timothy Harris coalition administration is now, at least, giving an ear to proposals to help out.
While there is no doubt that the airline has played a significant role in facilitating regional travel, there are also misgivings about the poor customer service that Caribbean travelers have suffered and complained about for many years, without much redress. At times, travelers would leave with the feeling that the airline simply does not care.
And that is one key factor that has greatly impacted the views of the Caribbean public, many of whom can relate their own stories of horror, trying to get from one capital to another.
This negative attitude towards LIAT, fueled by its poor customer service, has also caused Caribbean people to be numbed about its financial woes. It has also caused them to object to their governments pumping more money into an airline that never seems to be digging itself out of the hole it constantly finds itself buried deep within.
In the past, the airline had been forced to choose between paying staff salaries and the fees for aircraft it had leased. In the end, it did delayed paying the workers and opted to pay for the planes.
LIAT though, in the past, has also explained that if governments were to remove or reduce some of the taxes they place on tickets, fares would be cheaper, and this would result in higher numbers of travelers, leading possibly to more a positive financial performance.
Back in 2013, the government in St. Kitts hinted then that it might purchase shares in LIAT, but that never materialized. In more recent times, the signals from Basseterre and from the current government, have been mixed.
But at least, the Timothy Harris administration is now listening and have set up a special committee to formulate a position on the matter of assistance to LIAT.
A government release on Tuesday, 12th March, 2019, said “The high-level advisory committee will be led by the Financial Secretary in the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis, Mrs. Hilary Hazel. It will also consist of representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, representatives of the St. Christopher Air and Sea Ports Authority and a representative from the Office of the Prime Minister.”
It added that the committee will be charged with considering all matters relating to LIAT including the proposals made during a meeting held on Monday, 11th March, with a delegation from LIAT.
At present, the major shareholders of the regional airline are the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica. Increased efforts are being made to encourage other Caribbean governments to make financial contributions and to support the airline that operates 491 flights weekly across its network of 15 destinations.
The commitment to examine the feasibility of helping LIAT, came after the Harris led Cabinet met in Basseterre on Monday, 11th March, with a delegation headed by the General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, the LIAT, Diane Shurland. They discussed issues that are currently affecting the airline, which is said to be cask-stricken.
Also, representing LIAT at the meeting was its Chief Financial Officer, Rojer J. Inglis and Chief Commercial Officer, Audra Walker.