A top expert in the regional travel industry is not too optimistic about the grand promises being made by the Nigerian airline Air Peace which is taking over the operations of LIAT in the Caribbean.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the privately-owned airline which was founded in 2013 was supposed to officially take over the Antigua-based Liat from November.
He has warned the Caribbean government to be extremely careful as Air Peace has now been given the greenlight to fly into London, England which is a far more lucrative route than the Caribbean and might now concentrate their efforts and energy into that route.
He feared that the focus of the airline would be on what he labelled “this very extremely rich picking route, very high fielding route” from Lagos to London.
Air Peace is already covering the Lagos to Johannesburg in South Africa route as well as Mumbai in India.
According to the industry official, the Caribbean might no longer be that attractive for the Nigerian airline to give it the kind of service that is needed.
“My analysis is that their focus on the Caribbean is somewhat diminished because when you’re getting rich pickings like a Gold Ribbon route as it is called in the trade like London, why would you want to focus on inter-Caribbean routes in the region.
“So (Antigua Prime Minister, Gaston Browne) better knows what he is talking about because he wants to resurrect Liat purely because he wants employment there.”
The industry official warned that a foreign entity will not come into the region with aircrafts and just fly around to service non-profitable routes like was the case of the old LIAT.
“From my airline analyst you can’t operate a service today for tomorrow. These things have to be planned months ahead, now we should be selling for February and March – now we should be focusing on Easter.”
“We can’t be focusing on December because December is upon us – it should be within a 6-month remit. No airline can launch a service within a couple of months, it is impossible – just the paperwork and the ramifications … will stifle you especially in our region.”
He also expressed concerns with the fact that Air Peace has promised to bring jet aircrafts to fly in the region, as well as to operate several new destinations like to the United States, Nassau in the Bahamas and “other grand, very grand deals and plans.”
“Whether or not it happens is there to be seen,” he quipped.
The airline industry official also commented on the debate in the region following reports that some people do not want Caribbean Airlines to replace LIAT as the regional air carrier.
He took issue with claims that Caribbean Airlines was going to engage “in a mass expansion” when it is really nothing more than one and two flights to a destination whereas LIAT was engaged in “multiple frequencies” in the destination.
He cited the case in which LIAT used to do 4 flights a day on the Grenada/Barbados route and 2 and 3 a day to Port-of-Spain in Trinidad which is a far cry from 2 a week from Caribbean Airlines.
“So if you are operating two flights a week from Port-of-Spain/St Kitts that is hardly a drop in the ocean when compared to the former LIAT frequency of triple or double daily – it makes no sense,” he said.
The Caribbean has been experiencing difficulty in inter-regional traffic since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic just over two years ago.