A leading player in the airline industry on the island has called for commonsense to prevail among the governments in the Eastern Caribbean in looking at several airline companies to replace LIAT which is going into liquidation after over 50 years of service in the region.
The executive spoke to THE NEW TODAY following reports that some of the Prime Ministers in the sub-regional grouping of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are seemingly holding separate talks with different airlines to attract them to kick-start the aviation industry as a stand-in for LIAT.
He said that the islands need to be cognisant of the fact that LIAT in the best of times used to provide only three daily flights per island due to economic and financial reality.
He expressed suspicion about present moves by some of the airlines offering themselves up as a viable alternative to LIAT.
He described as “nonsense” some of these airlines that are coming out of the “woodwork” to try and capitalise on the present situation with LIAT.
According to the official, he senses that there is a mad rush by some of the islands to have at least 4-6 airlines take over the routes that have now been left vacant due to LIAT’s imminent demise.
“LIAT at best had only three flights and now they (the islands) want to invite 4 to 6 airlines (to come in). If each airline operates one flight we are over-saturated. If they operate two then they are going to be doomed. There is no market – the market is more than 60% down,” he said.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines (CAL) has agreed to station two aircraft in Barbados to try and kick-start the regional aviation industry with flights from Antigua in the north to Grenada in the south.
“We think it will be a good idea to just at least open up the one-odd-one flight,” he remarked.
According to the industry official, the situation which developed last week with three Trinidadians testing positive for the coronavirus on arrival at the Piarco International Airport from Grenada’s Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) has only served to dampen the situation with opening up of skies in the Caribbean.
He said he has since detected that “people are all scared again” about flying in the region.
He spoke of some people already indicating that they do not “want to fly again” and described the travel market at the moment as “kinda crazy” in the Eastern Caribbean.
The official dropped hints that one of the airlines that should be supported and seriously considered in its quest to replace LIAT is InterCaribbean which operates a service from the United Kingdom into the region.
“It’s an excellent airline – very well run airline with good equipment,” he said.
He did not offer much support to SVG AIR which has offered to put in a bid to replace LIAT with two flights to the islands with a 19-seater plane.
“That makes no sense. If you are used to a 60 or 70-seater on LIAT we don’t want to go backwards,” he said.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has announced that he has been in touch with several airlines, the principal ones being CAL, InterCaribbean, airlines, One Caribbean and SVG Air to help kick-start the aviation industry in the Eastern Caribbean.