Caribbean Airlines Expands Fleet, Antigua Protests Intra-Regional Moves

Embraer E-175

Newsday – In delivering TT’s 2023/2024 national budget, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced that the Caribbean region has been exhibiting strong air transport demand.

According to Imbert, to meet this growing demand, Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) intends to expand its fleet through the lease of additional ATR-72, B 737- MAX 8 and Embraer E-175 regional jets to service the intra-regional demand and establish bases and hubs across the region to promote efficiency and cost-reducing measures.

The first major reaction to CAL’s proposed expansion came last Friday from Lionel Hurst, chief of staff in the Antigua and Barbuda office of the Prime Minister.

After the weekly Cabinet meeting, Hurst – speaking at a news conference – said the Government had taken note of the scaling-up of CAL, including the purchase of several ATR aircraft with the expectation of placing them on routes serviced by LIAT 1974 Ltd.

Hurst said while plans are for LIAT 2020 to become fully operational by Christmas this year, St John is not going to lie down and allow the expansion of CAL in the region.

Hurst added that his Government intends to fight plans by CAL to expand its operations into the Eastern Caribbean.

Antigua and Barbuda will certainly lose any fight with CAL, which is exercising its rights under the revised Caricom Multilateral Air Services Agreement (MASA) to exploit marketing opportunities in the Caricom region.

CAL’s proposed expansion does not in any way violate Article 18: Pricing, and Article 19: Fair Competition, of the MASA.

Any attempts by Antigua and Barbuda to restrict CAL’s operations into its territory will be a violation of the MASA, with legal consequences.

The provision of efficient regional air transport within the Caricom region has been thwarted by insularity and geopolitics.

In June 2020, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, during an interview on Antigua’s Observer Radio, said he rejected any idea of CAL’s replacing LIAT and would soon start a scaled-down LIAT, on its own, rather than give CAL a monopoly.


Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne. Photo – Angelo Marcelle


Browne added, “In terms of those who are suggesting…giving CAL a monopoly on the provision of air services within Caricom, I am totally opposed to that, one million per cent opposed to that.”

As suggested by this column on numerous occasions, one way to solve the regional air transportation problems is for Antigua and Barbuda to embrace CAL and promote functional co-operation between CAL and any future reincarnation of LIAT.

On the other hand, Imbert briefly described CAL’s expansion plans in his 2024 budget statement under the heading Tourism and Cultural Industries, perhaps hinting at possible budgetary implications.

The Embraer E-175 aircraft, with a range of 2,200 nautical miles and dual-class seating of 76 seats, is suitable for operating a non-stop service between Port of Spain and Kingston.

Additionally, the Embraer E-175 can be used for services between Port of Spain and destinations in Florida such as Miami and Fort Lauderdale during off-peak periods when the passenger load factors are well below break-even for a Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

However, the operation of the Embraer E-175 as a new aircraft type will incur significant startup costs owing to the training of flight crews, maintenance personnel and ground operations staff.

Adequate spares and specialised tooling will have to be procured to meet the regulatory requirements for adding it to CAL’s Air Operating Certificate (AOC).

The AOC process is likely to last approximately six months, based on the ICAO five-phase certification process.



CAL’s proposed expansion was more than likely based on a feasibility study by its analytics group that identified the demand for additional airlift capacity and considered the most suitable aircraft based on operating economics.

Of major concern to stakeholders, particularly the TT taxpayers, is the sustainability of the market demand to justify the fleet expansion that is intended to promote efficiency and cost-reducing measures.

There must be optimum fleet utilisation, as aircraft on the ground do not earn revenue and monthly lease charges must be paid.

Therefore, the Investments Division of the Finance Ministry should do a very comprehensive and rigorous due diligence on CAL’s proposed fleet expansion programme and attest to its viability.

A major function of the Investments Division is appraising and evaluating investment plans of state enterprises to ensure the profitability of investment projects.

At a virtual news conference in 2021, Imbert said the Government could not bail out CAL to the tune of $700 million unless the airline gets itself ready and made itself as efficient as possible for the resumption of flights.

Imbert added that whatever system was put in place to allow the post-covid19 resumption of flights, CAL would be required to make a presentation to the wider public and let everybody know what the restructured airline would look like.

Taking a cue from this June 2021 edict, TT taxpayers have every right to know the extent to which CAL has achieved the objectives of its post-pandemic recovery plan and the answers to questions about CAL’s financial performance.

Are operating revenues equal to or exceeding operating expenses? Is there an operating surplus to fund CAL’s fleet expansion program?

These questions are relevant because a fleet expansion requires considerable funding to meet the cost of aircraft-lease security deposits and other associated expenses. Imbert must categorically state whether TT taxpayers are going to fund the initial cost of CAL’s fleet expansion.

Finally, as a true act of patriotism, it is strongly recommended that Imbert, as corporation sole, ensures all additional aircraft to be leased by CAL have a suitably designed steelpan logo, instead of a bird that very closely resembles the national bird of Jamaica.







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  1. Greed is a messed up thing. If CAL is able to help fix our regional airlift issues, then let them. LIAT has had ample opportunity to provide service and despite all of the big talk, it isn’t happening. CARICOM nationals have the right to be able to travel across the region unimpeded by politics.

  2. I hate LIAT! Gaston Browne and other governments need to stop stifling the Caribbean. There are certain businesses that government shouldn’t be involved in, and airline industry is one. Market the Caribbean and usher in entrepreneurial ventures who can fill the gap and fix our airline issues. Greed makes everyone lose.

  3. @Uuummmn….

    Unfortunately there are routes that any Caribbean airline doing multiple routes will have to operate on that will need to be subsidized by regional Governments in some way. This is what is making LIAT(1974) LTD difficult to revive or replace.

  4. Gaston’s pride is the only problem here. CAL has every right to expand their business if there is a demand for their services. LIAT is doing nothing to meet growing demand with its one plane. If LIAT wishes to expand then do so but do not try to block others who have the ability to properly service growing demand. Gaston has sunk so much of our money into saving LIAT and nothing has come of it. He has not saved the airline and is now trying to hand it over to Nigerians in an effort to save face rather than admit that his efforts have been in vain. I will not be flying on a Nigerian-owned airline as they do not have the best track record for safety.

  5. CARICOM doesn’t really exist in the spirit it was meant to any longer. Every Island is about self. And the big islands trying to take away from the small ones. That is one of the reasons the Cricket West Indies doesn’t work either. They are not a team. Too much rivalry between the Islands. And history has shown us that it is easy to divide and rule especially the black people. Whether here in the Caribbean or in Africa. Black people are living in countries with the most naturel resources in the world, yet they are some of the poorest in the world. Divide and rule has put them there. When CLICO folded up Trinidad took care of their own people’s investment and literally told the rest of the Islands too bad for you guys. Had we protected our economy against this Trinidadian Company we would be dragged to the CCJ for breach of the Chaguaramas Treaty. Now take LIAT. Barbados the largest shareholder refuses to give Antigua and Barbuda the change to revive LIAT 1974. Instead, they insist, together with St. Vincent, that LIAT should be liquidated. And when our PM brings in the picture a new LIAT 2020 with no baggage, they again show they are not interested in any airline that would be headquartered in Antigua. They all agree that we need the airlift, but not out of Antigua. Even Ralph is making the suggestion that the airline should be headquartered in St. Vincent. Give me an aspirin. Anyone looking at the financials of CAL would see how heavily it is subsidized by the government of Trinidad and Jamaica. They have tremendous losses. And really, they started with BWIA, then Air Jamaica came on the scene and when that all didn’t work, we now have CAL. And let us not keep our eyes from the industrial mess they are in with their pilots. To me, they are no different than LIAT 1974. A bottomless pit in which they drop money. If we gave them the sole right to operate our airspace, we would regret this very soon. We would be helping them with their bottomless pit. Antiguans and Barbudans are not patriotic and do not stand with one another in things that are in our national interest. Sad set of people we are. We should all be rallying behind the fight to keep LIAT in Antigua, for this is our bread. If someone comes to take your bread away, you should fight. Regardless of who is leading the fight. But not in Antigua. Politics divide us, even taking stands against the country we claim to love. What a people! God must have cursed us.
    When Trump was in office, he divided the Caribbean Leaders who were backing Venezuela and Cuba, by not inviting them to a meeting at his house in Mar a Lago Florida. And boy how we can still remember the shameful picture of these leaders, sitting in a little room on little chairs waiting for Trump. Then alone it was clear that CARICOM was not a unity as it was envisioned. It is only on paper, but every man is for himself and God for us ALL. And I am for Antigua and Barbuda, anytime and everywhere. Ah yah me barn

    • Again @ From The Sideline, what you seem to have “purposely” overlooked, is that when your SAVIOUR Gaston Browne decided to take over Liat Airlines (though many of us thought it admirable at the time), the Prime Minister dilly-dallied over the former staff severance pay; and never gave any timescales as to when Liat would be airborne again.

      And if you had ANY sort of business mind or ACUMEN, you would have realised that any airline competitor(s) would have pounced, and take the opportunity for the Caribbean region to get airborne once more.


      Boss, you need to come out of your ivory – dream business – tower and live in the real world of competitiveness.

      Even now you must realise that the PM’s business CONSIGLIERES are non existent.


      • @Brixtonian October 13, 2023 At 11:17 am
        “Again @ From The Sideline, what you seem to have “purposely” overlooked, is that when your SAVIOUR Gaston Browne decided to take over Liat Airlines (though many of us thought it admirable at the time), the Prime Minister dilly-dallied over the former staff severance pay; and never gave any timescales as to when Liat would be airborne again.”

        Look at your statement above Brix. Can you prove that Gaston Browne took over LIAT? You like to make these baseless statements. LIAT was placed in Administration by Gaston Browne to avoid it being liquidated. And in the meantime, the administrator was looking for ways to revive LIAT. Not Gaston Browne. The administrator met with several investors, but none materialized. No one wants to take over the large amount of debt.
        Now why do you then wat our country to bear the responsibility for the severance of ALL the LIAT workers? Barbados is the largest shareholder and they have only looked after the small group of the LIAT workers in their country that are Barbadians. And I point it out again. Every man for themselves. That is what it shows. Barbados takes care of Barbadians. Trinidad takes care of Trinidadians. Gaston should have taken the same approach and take care of Antiguans ALONE. But that is not the spirit of CARICOM.

        • Okay Sidey why wasn’t the ABLP/Gassssston Browne more proactive when there was clearly a gap in the market for growth?

          Again, missing the point regarding business management – what a crock!

          Gaston Browne missed a great opportunity to galvanise the airline region, by either being at the forefront, or lagging behind business minded entrepreneurs that would take advantage of the gap in the market.

          And with CAL, the latter took place.

          Browne isn’t a business man – in fact he isn’t even a good politician.

      • @Brixtonian October 13, 2023 At 11:17 am
        And if you had ANY sort of business mind or ACUMEN, you would have realised that any airline competitor(s) would have pounced, and take the opportunity for the Caribbean region to get airborne once more.

        You are talking up my alley, and it shows me that you are not a real businessman. LIAT was in deeper problems in the past and many came along to steal LIAT’s share of the market. One was even on our Island and encouraged by the late Sir Lester Bird. Alan Stanford was badly advised to start an airline, by the very same LIAT CEO and CFO. Filiatrault and Nandlal. But my advice to Stanford was that you need to have very deep pockets to compete with LAIT. Because it is backed by governments, my belief was it will never go bankrupt. That is up until today I must revisit that thought. Stanford was willing to buy off all the LIAT Shareholders, but Ralph wouldn’t have anything of that. Now history has shown us the true colors of Ralph. Those days Antigua was the largest shareholder. Running an airline is a cash expensive operation. You can look at airlines worldwide. Sometimes, someone has to bail them out. They serve a very important social service of transporting people from one place to another in the shortest possible time. Therefore, the business model of LIAT should be changed. It cannot be a profit alone venture. But we have been there, and many prefer to pay the American and other foreign airlines a subsidy to fly into their islands, but their very own LIAT has to find their own means to finance the flight. I really hope Air Peace know what they are getting themselves in, because only deep pockets will survive. I hope the Trinidadian government has the deep pockets. Because they are already saddled with CAL’s losses and now, they want to see if they can steal some of Antigua’s honey. Sorry not you nah nah nah nah. Antigua will protect their share.
        Brix you what I have against Trinidad. All these years they have been invited to invest in LIAT and form some sort of partnership where they will do the long hauls and Liat would only do the short ones. But they refused to put one dime into LIAT. Now they think they can take candy from a child. Well sorry not this child call Gaston Browne. Thank God. He will stand up for Antigua at any time against anyone. Even MIA Motley and Ralph Gonsalves.
        Burry your hatred for the man and see the bigger picture to fight for your country.

        • I won’t go into a LONG-WINDED diatribe like you Sidey, but I’ve been in business for around 5-6 years now, and I’m still standing boss. 😁


          • @Brixtonian October 13, 2023 At 1:56 pm
            Brix if you are in business only 5-6 years then you are as green as they come, and you cannot discuss business with me or Gaston Brown. I’m over thirty years in business. 🙂
            You really think you know business? Give me an aspirin. Larry Gonsalves just finished a contract of 40 years with WIOC. Where were you?

    • @ sideline
      This is one time I have to agree with you because your absolutely right no one is going to invest in liat base in Antigua and you can practically blame brown boy for that he’s too pompous and none of the other Caribbean heads like him probably you’re the only one and a few ass lickers in bed with him.

    • # sideline
      That song like a concession speech like you know liat on the last legs just maybe if a last minute deal come with the African airlines u think they would let brown used liat like a welfare system with 600 jobs no way the most would be 75 to 100 and all the top positions would be Africans.

      • @GG October 13, 2023 At 1:11 pm
        The only reason I would answer you is because you touch on the point of what a business decision a private sector will make, versus a politician.
        Politicians look to make sure people have work. Businessmen look at the profitability of the company. That is why I could not and never be a politician. I don’t see people/workers as humans. I see them as numbers when I do business. I have done many reorganizations in large companies and firing thousands of people is very easy for me to do. As long as it is in the interest of the corporation. The government knows their public sector is over bloated by at least 50%, yet they would never result in firing them. Only when they strictly must follow an IMF program. Like when Mia Motley came to power, the first thing she did was to lay off 1800 public servants.

  6. The problem here is not that CAL is planning to expand into the Eastern Caribbean where the routes were once serviced by LIAT but by the egos of three island’s leaders namely Antigua, Barbados dnd and St.Vincent. the way I see it the time has come for a joint venture as a nerger between LIAT and CAl to take place back to where it was like in the 90’s . Then you would have a one true entity servicing the entire diaspora. From Guyana all that way up to the Bahamas.

    • @ D Jude, a MERGER between Liat and CAL would have been the IDEAL collaboration, but with so many political leaders trying to gain one-upmanship on each other, this would never have taken place.


    • @D Jude October 13, 2023 At 2:02 pm
      i guess you didn’t read what I wrote. CAL/BWIA was invited to invest in LIAT on numerous occasions. They refused to join the small Islands. You guys will never see the wisdom when Prime Minister Gaston Browne refused to sign the vesting order to give Republic Bank the green light to buy Scotia. Look how they treated the small Island with the collapse of CLICO. Antiguan investors lost $300million. And Trinidad wants to pay zero to these people. Some have committed suicide and others have become very ill, cannot catch themselves. When you lose your entire life savings it is hard. The Trinidadian Government just bought the CLICO assets and didn’t settle with anyone outside Trinidad. but Gaston has promised to take them to the CCJ on behalf of the small Islands. All is not well in CARICOM. Best we break it up.

  7. @D Jude .

    The door is still open. LIAT(1974) LTD could be put up for sale.
    Severance and other liabilities attached………………
    Current route rights should probably remain intact .

  8. LIAT is imploding. There are two Trinis on the LIAT team who are working with CAL to bring LIAT down. Worl Boss got rid of the thieving lawyer, now he needs to get rid of the dorty indian and the flight attendant. If you think that these Trinis will put Antigua over Trinidad, LIAT over CAL you are making a sad mistake. They are mercenaries planted to destroy LIAT. Wait and watch

  9. I don’t know why you people complaining about the pm y’all vote for him in every election. A man who came to off from grace farm with nothing and now has millions more than the president of the United States how such one person has all that money, the United States president paycheck is about a hundred thousand a year he gets more and a fancy house still most people don’t have water in the homes. The amount of water distilled can be pumped into pot works dam by running pipes every home should have solar panels on the roof to save money on electric so the people can save money can have wind farms or take advantage of the sun to generate electricity ,the Chinese can set up factory to make solar panels give people work so many fruit’s get wasted a factory can be used to produce fruit juices and export a wave turbine can be used under water for electricity more jobs for young people so many things can be done on the island by the help of the amount of Chinese on the island it can cut import cost,so think about that but the pm give you guys a refurbished cell phone some money for a bribe and you let him run your life no job no money no nothing.. so why you tripping out you reap what you so you can’t grow crops in pebble soil as what Jesus said in the bible a grain of mustard seeds

    • Absolutely correct @ Devon 👏🏾, Antiguans are now reaping what they sowed at the last General Election.

      On point! Bravo again … 🤜🏽🤛🏽

    • @Devon October 15, 2023 At 8:03 am
      You guys are too much obsessed with Gaston Browne’s wealth. The man declared his asset the minute he came into politics. He indicated to have a NetWorth of $30million. When in opposition he once more demonstrated that he will not sit idle by and build many homes. Now in government he venture in a few businesses such as a farm. Only to proof to many that Farming can be a lucrative business. All you do is making suggestions that he got his wealth by illegal means, but you provide no evidence to that. Until such time that you can come with proof I suggest you keep your insinuations to yourself. Jealousy is a great sin. But we know our people are cursed. They like crab in barrel. They cannot see the other brother gain any form of wealth. Me, I’m only disappointed when I see locals squander their wealth. Like the Benjies Family that had the only mall in town, the Joseph Family that used to own Bargain Centre. The Winter Family that used to own Food City and many many more. The PM once made a suggestion to young un-employed guys to go burn coal or raise pigs. And many took it as an insult. Well do you know how much a bag of coal sells for?. Do you know how much a pig sells for? Those who took up his suggestion should be thriving now.

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