COMMENTARY: LIAT’s Wineskin Transition

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“Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” – Matthew 9:17
The Caribbean is a unique diverse multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious, multiculinary, multigenre (musical) and multilingual region, made up of an archipelago of islands and selected mainland emerging territories in and bordering on the Caribbean Sea. This is a natural haven for a warm weather tourism experience.
The movement of people (regional residents and tourists) and cargo in this archipelago, comfortably, profitably, efficiently, daily, in a timely manner and at an affordable price, is mandatory to promote Caribbean unity and sustain economic development.
LIAT was founded in 1956 and is now described as a “cash-strapped” regional airline in need of restructuring.
The newly appointed LIAT board should therefore be in search of a new sustainable air travel value proposition which will meet the needs of residents and tourists to move seamlessly between destinations within the Caribbean and beyond.
The new LIAT value proposition should describe a new dispensation which alleviates problems, addresses customers’ expectations and increases competitiveness. A successful search defines new “wine”.
The challenge is to identify the weaknesses in the old wineskins and replace them with new wineskins so that the new wine and wineskins are preserved and LIAT becomes sustainable.
In order to prevent the new wine from running out, sound wineskins are needed in five areas: (1) Strategic Partnership – Finance, Aircraft, Systems, Routes and Code-sharing; (2) Ownership – Regional and Strategic; (3) Markets – Caribbean and Beyond; (4) Leadership and Teamwork – Vision and Action; and (5) Service Excellence – Passion, Perseverance and Patience.
Each of these areas must be examined to determine weaknesses in the old wine skins and to design ways in which they may be strengthened.
Here are some areas of weakness with proposed strategies to strengthen each one.
Emergency and strategic financing to support the new lease on life. The region is not strong enough financially and hence a mutually beneficial partnership must be forged with stronger extra-regional financial partners.
Planning for the maintenance and replacement of aircraft. A larger airline partnership must be engaged with a wider knowledge of the airline business.
Repeated use of well-worn operational systems. Seek advice on technological updates with state-of-the-art airline operators.
No expansion of traditional routes to give the airline a greater chance of being viable. Code-share with larger more experienced airlines.
Ownership is only by a few governments within the region and there is no regional private sector input. Each country that benefits from this service must make an ongoing financial contribution and extra-regional airline investment must be encouraged.
The current market that LIAT services is too small to sustain the airline. Engage larger airlines to be shareholders in LIAT and expand the route structure of the airline.
Leadership’s vision is myopic and stagnant, and the implementation of action plans is stifled by the recycling of management and staff. Bring new, experienced leadership to the airline and inject new management and staff where practicable.
Caribbean unity enhances the chances of regional sustainability. The movement of people in the archipelago of islands and mainland emerging territories in and bordering on the Caribbean Sea will stimulate Caribbean unity.
LIAT, The Caribbean airline, has been struggling to provide this service. A new board has been established to seek a sustainable solution.
Let us encourage the board to establish a new value proposition (new wine) and pour it into new wine skins so that both are preserved.
Dr. Basil Springer GCM is a Change-Engine Consultant. His email address is [email protected]. His columns may be found at www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com and on www.facebook.com/basilgf.

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