Trinidad Finance Minister’s CAL plan incenses Antigua

Trinidad Finance Minister Colm Imbert

Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s recent budget announcement regarding Caribbean Airlines’ regional expansion plans has struck a wrong chord with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, with a spokesperson saying they intend to “fight” the situation.

The CAL situation was the number one item listed on the Antigua and Barbuda Cabinet Note for October 5.

“The Cabinet took note of the scaling-up of Caribbean Airlines (CAL), including the purchase of several ATR aircraft with the expectation of placing them on routes serviced by LIAT 1974 Ltd,” said a statement issued after the weekly Cabinet meeting in Antigua and Barbuda.

“The statement about CAL’s expansion came from a Trinidad and Tobago parliamentarian who spoke in their Parliament recently. It is evident… that reviving LIAT is not an objective of Trinidad, whose leaders are determined to capture the aviation services that Antigua and Barbuda once exported,” it stated.

“Cabinet is determined to have LIAT resume its role, providing hundreds of jobs to residents and citizens of Antigua and Barbuda. Air Peace has agreed to purchase a significant share in LIAT (2020) and to provide the capital necessary to return LIAT to its former glory,” it stated.

During his budget presentation on Monday, Imbert said that following the exit of LIAT, the Caribbean region has been exhibiting strong air transport demand.

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“Additionally, international visitors are on the rise. As markets progressively recover, Caribbean Airlines aims to utilise its assets effectively and establish a foundation for network growth. The airline thus intends to expand its fleet to meet this growing demand through the lease of four additional ATR-82 aircraft and three additional B-737-8s, bringing the fleet size to a pre-pandemic level. CAL also plans to lease five Embraer E-175 regional jets to service the intraregional demand and to establish bases and hubs across the region to promote efficiency and cost-reducing measures,” Imbert stated.

Imbert also said CAL is pursuing cargo operations as an essential revenue source, and will be leasing two ATR and two B-737-800 jet aircraft to expand its cargo services across the region.

According to a report from the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) yesterday, while speaking at a news conference, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister in Antigua and Barbuda, Lionel Hurst told reporters that while plans are for LIAT 2020 to become fully operational by Christmas this year, St John’s is not going to lie down and allow the expansion of CAL in the region.

“We have been working with Air Peace with the expectation that it will bring capital, expertise and, of course, a great deal of interest in ensuring that our LIAT survives. We believe that it is a better notion, a better approach than the plans announced by CAL through a parliamentarian in Trinidad and Tobago,” Hurst told reporters.

He said CAL “essentially intends to take from Antigua and Barbuda the aviation services that we have been providing by way of LIAT for more than 60 years. So we are going to continue to fight this approach of trying to take from Antigua and Barbuda the important role which LIAT did in not only providing service to interregional travel in the Caribbean, but more importantly, for Antigua and Barbuda all those jobs—more than 600 jobs.”

Last month, Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, announced plans to enter into a relationship with Air Peace, a private Nigerian airline founded in 2013. Browne was defending the decision of his administration to go ahead with plans for LIAT 2020 to replace the cash-strapped LIAT (1974) Ltd,

LIAT (1974) is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines. It entered into administration in July 2020 following increased debt and the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

“We have tried in the past to get all our OECS colleagues on board to start an OECS airline, but the problem we have had—and this is…a problem that existed for decades—is that to get a commitment for all of the countries to fund an airline has been a problem,” Browne said, adding that as a result of a lack of commitment, his administration decided to pursue a new partner for the proposed LIAT 2020 “which will be a new legal entity that will not assume any of the liabilities of LIAT (1974).

“Air Peace is a billion-dollar company. In fact, just recently it would have ordered about US$300 million worth of aircraft. So it is substantial in terms of its asset base, it has the experience, and the argument has always been within the region that whatever regional airline that is established, that you should have a private sector component to ensure that we have the necessary efficiencies and to avoid the legacy issues that we have had with LIAT in the past”, Browne said then.

Hurst told reporters that while no firm date has yet been given for the launch of LIAT 2020, “We are not so far away.

“The licence that is to be issued by the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority can only take place when LIAT 2020 actually has an aircraft, and as you know we have been in negotiations to purchase at least one aircraft from LIAT (1974) Ltd and two others from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

“Those two others are claimed property of CDB under the licensing and lease arrangements that LIAT acquired them. Our expectation is that we will conclude these concessional arrangements with CDB, if it is at all possible, and we will bring to bear these airplanes, which by the way are just sitting there doing absolutely nothing.

“So we think putting them back into the skies is a better bet than having them do nothing, because they deteriorate rapidly when they are just sitting there. So that’s where we are at,” he added.

Hurst said the idea is to have the new airline launched by Christmas.

“It would be great to have it at Christmas time because that’s when a lot of travel takes place and of course we would like to be able to offer the services around that time,” Hurst told reporters according to CMC.

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  1. CAL is Caribbean owned, LIAT plans to be Nigerian owned (70%), Virgin Atlantic is UK owned. I back CAL until LIAT is Caribbean owned again.

  2. Gaston Brown and his minions are panicking, for they need to find a scape goat. That scape goat is becoming Trinidad and CAL.
    While there may be room for two seperate airlines enntities to serve the Eastern Caribbean market; I am guessing that Chet Green promised Allen Onyema owner of Air Peace that his will enjoy the same monopoly that LIAT had.
    Yet again, the incompetence of the Gaston Brown Government is on full display.
    Mr. Onyema is a shrewd businessman; and will not be entering a maket invest millions of dollars and then get his head handed to him.
    Look out for the disappearing Air Peace/LIAT; but maybe not as quickly as Air Antigua

  3. It doesn’t incense me at all. The current Antigua govt full of shit only looking out for themselves. Just like all the promises of delivering water so we can shower at least once a day per the minister and not even that he can deliver. They don’t pay social security or pensions. They don’t pay the govt workers. Add a nefarious Nigerian company to make things worse. People have to do business and travel but that doesn’t concern the govt so long as they aren’t hampered like we are. Govt 1st and screw the rest as usual.

    Keep on voting in Gaston Browne and kissing his ass like some on here and that’s why we are where we’re at. We can’t even get consistent electricity. But so long as you get your free driver’s license, ham, turkey, stove and the rest of the usual bribery items you give them your vote. Now you can deal with the outcome.

  4. Came across the following comment looking for comments on the LIAT stories from publications in other Islands. Some of the other comments are funny.

    October 9, 2023

    As a former Liat pilot, the region should be weary of foreign intervention who does not want to assume the liabilities of Liat. Safety first , liat has had a long safety record,well trained pilots. Caribbean Airlines also enjoyes that safety record. I’m not sure and can’t speak for Liat 2020.”

  5. Please,please, CAL. We the people of the Caribbean need you to expand as fast and as quickly as possible.We are the ones.Whose eyes are being gouged out by LIAT’s pricing on tickets.Let those politicians cry their eyes out for the Nigerian man of Air Peace.He is supposedly buying the majority shares in LIAT. So says Adolf,that is left to be seen.

  6. LIAT has been struggling and struggling to pay workers. Let it go. Times change. Companies fail. I want to travel safely and comfortably. I support CAL being business- minded (something LIAT struggles to do) and expanding.

    @ Commentator

    In your research, did you come across the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) report that is in the hands of OECS leaders?

    Reference: ANR article dated 9/13/2023: OECS leaders discuss inter-regional transportation (CDB report).

    Let us interact with humility, grace, honesty, good intentions!…..Be nice to each other!

    Save our Humanity, Save our Youths, Save our Environment, Save our Soil!!!



    Yes I did hear about the CDB report .
    Interestingly Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent apparently commented that
    he thought that some of the figures in that report were a bit on the low side.

    Big issue is that for an airline to serve a large area as we were accustomed to with LIAT(1974) Ltd there are going to be many loss making routes or only seasonally viable ones that would need to be operated even with loses or only seasonally high demand.
    Only LIAT(1974) Ltd did this in the English speaking Caribbean in the last 10 or so years. Caribbean Airlines does it with Government subsidy on the domestic Trinidad to Tobago “AirBridge” route.
    The question for any LIAT(1974) LTD replacement or continuance is whether that airline will do that. ?
    To do that the money to keep the airline operating will have to come from local or regional taxpayers in some way if it caused a loss making operation overall.
    Round and round we go ?

    @ Commentator

    Respectfully and humbly, thank YOU for the information and your thoughts!
    Immediately, the apparent comment by PM Gonsalves that “some of the figures in that report were a bit on the low side” jumped off the page.
    However, to dig into it requires access to the report. So we leave it to the team of technicians (in Dominica?).
    It’s plausible that Air Peace management has the CDB report and is doing their analysis.

    We know that any action by the A&B government that is related to LIAT (1974) Ltd and LIAT (2020) requires the Administrator to submit a proposal to the Court for approval.
    Those OECS/CARICOM owner-member countries of LIAT (1974) Ltd., in addition to the claimant Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) that has a significant financial ‘skin in the game’, and any other creditors, are participants in any of LIAT’s actions.
    Right now, LIAT (1974) Ltd. is on life-support and LIAT (2020) is an idea, a concept.

    To use a rhetorical, aviation analogy: Can the A&B government land LIAT easily and smoothly at Douglas-Charles Int’l airport as at V.C. Bird Int’l Airport? Put on your seat belts and buckle up!……Wait and see!

    Let us interact with humility, grace, honesty, good intentions!…..Be nice to each other!

    Save our Humanity, Save our Youths, Save our Environment, Save our Soil!!!


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