Recently the exchanges are being played out in the media and have taken on a more ominous tone, which has caught the attention and fury of the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda.
Antigua media have reported that a document, purported to have originated from within LIAT, has proposed its own demise and the formation of a new airline, based in Barbados, with LIAT’s aircraft legally turned over to the new airline.
While not much has been said by Barbados authorities on the idea, Antigua’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne responded recently to the alleged plan describing it as one of “treason”, indicating he would call for the resignation of LIAT’s Chief Executive Officer David Evans if the plans turned out to be true.
“I will be calling on Mr. Evans very shortly to discuss with him exactly where that plan emanated from. He needs to tell me, as the prime minister of this country, where that plan emanated from. And if it is that he hatched that plan on his own, you can be sure that as prime minister of this country, as a shareholder of LIAT, that I will be asking for his resignation,” Browne said on Antigua’s ZDK radio.
“If it is that Mr. Evans took it on his own to prepare that proposal for consideration by the government of Barbados, then as far as I am concerned, the proposal to cannibalize LIAT is certainly an act of treason against LIAT, and obviously, an act of hostility against the government and people of Antigua and Barbuda,” Prime Minister Browne said in the broadcast.
But a former major REDjet investor, Ralph ‘Bizzy’ Williams, described the idea as “madness”, pointing out that such a move is likely to fail under existing aviation laws and regulations, whether it is private sector driven or public sector supported.
Some business experts have previously express the view that if any new airline replaces LIAT, several routes would be ‘axed’ leaving some islands without the socio-economic lifeline that LIAT provides. It is from this perspective that St. Kitts and Nevis sees the relevance of a stronger LIAT, given its historical role played in the development and integration of the sub-region.
St. Kitts and Nevis Minister of Aviation Mark Brantley believes that LIAT plays a critical role in the context of regional integration, and told MiyVue.com that he hopes the most recent difficulties of the airline could be addressed thoughtfully.
“LIAT’s survival is very important to the region, and it is my hope that any issues can be resolved, and resolved urgently and amicably,” said Brantley, as he spoke of the essential role that LIAT plays in the sub-region.
“There are airlines, such as LIAT, that service routes that are non-competitive, routes which, perhaps, would not be serviced were it not for the commitment to the people of the Caribbean, and the commitment to connect the people regardless, sometimes, of the commercial viability.
“Perhaps, if we are only driven by competition and by market conditions, then there are some routes that would not be serviced at all, which might economically make sense, but would be disastrous for the culture and social intercourse of the region,” said Minister Brantley.
Meanwhile, another Barbadian businessman, Robert Pitcher, is of the view that any new Barbados based airline would have to depend on taxpayers money, and that the route now served by LIAT cannot take competing carriers.
“For Barbados to start its own airline, it would be at the expense [of taxpayers]. The Caribbean [route] that LIAT currently serves cannot take two airlines flying it. Both of them would lose money,” said Pitcher.
Instead, he believes that regional governments served by LIAT should invest proportionally in the carrier, an idea that is not new and has its own set of detractors.