Thursday, December 7, 2023

LIAT still in talks with Barbados and St. Vincent

The Court appointed Administrator for the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, Cleveland Seaforth, says talks are still ongoing with Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines after the two former shareholder governments of the airline temporarily banned the airline from landing at the airports in the two countries over valid flight approvals.

Seaforth has hinted at the possibility of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) getting involved in a bid to find an amicable solution to the situation.

“The latest is that we continue to have discussions with Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said, adding that in addition to the situation, a situation has arisen in Kingstown surrounding the ground handling operations for the airline.

“We actually took back on staff, we trained them but the Airport Authority in St. Vincent wants to do the handling and not LIAT and so we are in dialogue with them and my expectation is that with respect to St. Vincent we should have an answer from the board of directors on Friday,” Seaforth said on the state-owned ABS television.

He said the discussions are continuing with Bridgetown adding “we can’t quite get a response from them as yet.

“However within the last 24 hours or so CARICOM has approached the company to find out what’s the position and asked to be presented with the information which we did give them, both in respect of Barbados and St. Vincent and my understating it is possible that CARICOM may make some intervention to try and resolve the matter,” Seaforth told television viewers.

Last Saturday LIAT said it was forced to suspend services to the two Caribbean destinations while it awaits the approval from the relevant authorities there.

LIAT said prior to its suspension of services in March, it had been operating to Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines “on valid flight approvals, which have not expired,” and Seaforth said that in the case of Barbados “it came as a surprise to us” adding that “we are a bit taken aback by the decision we have a valid permit to fly into Barbados until July 2024.

He said that the Barbados authorities had informed them last week that “we would have to make new arrangements before we could fly into Barbados.

“We don’t necessarily agree with them because we have the permit which allows us to fly into Barbados until July 2024. We dispatched a letter to them late on Friday asking them to reconsider the decision”.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, has criticised the decision of the former two shareholder governments of the airline to operate schedule flights into their countries.

“LIAT will succeed, notwithstanding the artificial impediments that these countries are creating,” Browne said on his weekend radio programme in response to the development.

“The irony is, there were no such requirements for other carriers. All of the other airlines that resumed services to those countries, they had no such requirement so the question is why are they discriminating against LIAT.

“LIAT is a regional institution within the OECS and the broader CARICOM and it should be given national treatment; not to be treated as some stepchild, but to be embraced as a regional carrier, and if anything, should be given preference, not to be discriminated against,” Browne added.

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