A leading local civil aviation official has given support to efforts being made by the Prime Minister of Antigua Gaston Browne to bring in a new investor to help turn around the financially plagued LIAT 2020 airline.
Browne has announced that Air Peace, a Nigerian airline, is set to acquire a 70 percent stake in LIAT 2020 which he wants to see operated purely on a commercial basis.
Once the agreement with Air Peace is finalized, LIAT, headquartered in Antigua, could potentially have a fleet of up to six aircraft.
Air Peace has been operating for 10 years with a fleet of 31 aircraft and flying to 20 destinations from Lagos to Mumbai, Johannesburg, Dubai and Tel Aviv. It also operates B777-300 with 364 seats.
According to the Prime Minister of Antigua, efforts are currently being made to establish the air operating certificate (AOC) for LIAT 2020 and that the revamped regional carrier will not operate in unprofitable routes.
The local civil aviation expert pointed out that PM Browne has tried in recent years to get other regional leaders to support the revitalisation of LIAT but they do not seem to be interested in pumping money into the financially-strapped carrier.
He said if the revived LIAT 2020 does become a reality and the airline can begin regular service, this will help to provide more passenger movement around the region.
“Let’s give them a chance – the more the merrier. I think it’s good – it can’t be bad. It will be interesting to see,” he told THE NEW TODAY.
“It is still quite absurd that people have to go via Miami to connect to certain islands and certain places that you just cannot get to,” he added.
The civil aviation official made mention of an incident in which some persons wanted to travel to Grenada to Aruba this week for a funeral but did not make it because interCaribbean cancelled their flights.
“…Two of the flights on interCaribbean were cancelled and left the people 4-days stranded, missing their funeral,” he said.
The official disclosed that the passengers lost $3600.00 and will not get any redress due to a lack of laws in the region that offer protection to passengers with their money.
“Airlines can come and go arbitrarily as they please and stop and change at will and if you miss your connection that’s it basically,” he remarked.
The civil aviation official also said that he would have been extremely concerned if the Nigerian airline was a “fly-by-night” carrier that was trying something in the region.
He pointed out that in recent times there has been “a flurry of activities” in Civil Aviation in the Caribbean especially among the regional carriers.
He said the Trinidad-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) is now putting on 5 or 6 extra planes dedicated to Caribbean connectivity, WINAIR is also increasing flights, as well as interCaribbean which has three aircraft in the region and with plans to purchase another three planes to operate in the region.
The official stated that things are beginning to happen “all of a sudden” after a hiatus of 3 years due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, he said that despite some improvements in service, interCaribbean is still confronted by “massive challenges” and “are still cancelling flights – they are still screwing up.”