We burned down the inter-island air travel barn. Time we rebuild it.

6

Anyone who is remotely acquainted with or involved in the state of reasonable air transport would concede that it has been an abject mess ever since but Barbados’ withdrawal from LIAT leading to the repossession of planes and the shrinking of a mainstay carrier into a one-plane operation out of Antigua. CLICK HERE TO JOIN OUR WHATSAPP GROUP FOR NEWS UPDATES.

Airline schedules, from Guyana in the south to the Leeward Islands in the north, have been wrecked, and the arrival of three airlines into the regional airspace has done nothing to improve this sorry state of affairs.

For a recent regional workshop, no one from Grenada could attend because the only flights available would route them through Miami. No one from St. Vincent and the Grenadines could make it – their flights would see them being routed through London. Participants from a neighbouring island roughly 50 miles or half-an-hour’s flying time away had to arrive via British Airways. Planning to get into and out of each island has become a complex, military-style, logistical operation merely because airlines have inconvenient days of arrival and departure, their seats are invariably sold out weeks in advance, and relative comfort and convenience have been sacrificed on the altar of profit.

The notion that inter-Island air transport must be the sole preserve of profit-making entities is as bizarrely unproductive for the region as the same assumption for public transport in each island. In developing countries, transport cannot be considered as purely private goods

Just as lengthy commute times are a trademark of reduced productivity, sluggish output and lax revenue in any local economy, so too does the regional economy suffer when one-day trips must become four-day excursions and a flight from one island to another becomes a game of hopscotch involving three.

There is more than enough blame to share among regional governments for the shambolic schedules: the intransigence of one government unwilling to trim its labour force to suit the airline’s operations is matched by another island’s bull-headed notion that it should not be involved in civil aviation at all.

We repeat: Caribbean transport cannot work entirely as a private sector playground. Contrary to rosy expectations spawned by LIAT’s wrecking of increased competition, greater choice and lower fares, we have airlines charging double and triple what they used to for a trip from one island to another.

For Caribbean people to enjoy the community to which they belong, they must spend more money than it would take  to travel three or four hours to North America. To this reality, an economist  previously posited that given our small size,  we ought not to expect low airfares. In a region-wide telecast on the subject of airfares, this economist’s dose of economic realism came up against the bullish desire of the then Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization and his own economic pragmatism: if you lower fares you will get more bums on seats.

That economist clearly missed the boat. Should exponentially higher airfares  be the price for doing business, getting education, visiting friends and family, engaging in commerce, deepening participation in our cultures and spreading the glue that keeps these desperate islands together as a single economic space and polity?

Caribbean governments have long shown great disdain for their own people travelling to the region, giving lie to their rhetoric. For example, these governments routinely pay subsidies to North American carriers to bring sun-seeking tourists to sun-drenched shores but steadfastly refuse to invest in regional air linkages that would expose even more of those same tourists to a wider choice of destinations or multiple destinations in one trip.

Antigua and Barbuda, the sole designated survivor as the remaining shareholder of LIAT last week became the latest to adopt a for-profit stance to keep LIAT going, by calling on Caribbean governments to do for it what it has long done for others.

What St. John’s is urging fellow CARICOM nations to do is act in the spirit and letter of the treaty they signed nearly 40 years ago. After all, they all agreed never to offer terms and conditions of service to third party countries that are superior to those offered to fellow member states. It is now time to stop violating the Treaty of Chaguaramas, thwarting the dreams and hopes of Caribbean people and stunting their own development and growth. They must abandon ages-old mistrust and suspicion of each other by setting a new course for Caribbean aviation, in which agreements are honoured, not breached.

Caribbean aviation has been reduced through the management of decline and our own government must acknowledge its role in bringing about the current state of affairs. But it will require collective action to return to what now appears to have been a golden age of inter-island aviation.

We never knew we had it so good until we lit the match and burned down our own barn. Rather than poke about the embers, it is time to rebuild that structure, not depend on others to do it for us, and throw off the shackles of economic orthodoxy that have left a regional industry in shambles. — Barbados TODAY Editorial

CLICK HERE TO JOIN OUR WHATSAPP GROUP

6 COMMENTS

  1. Caribbean airlines makes the most sense as the regional airline. Time to expand it and get the best economy of scale.

  2. Well put together but all said and done to much have been said and done by One Big head pompous pm a want 2b Dictator and he’s even dressing like one in his blood red outfit only thing missing is some medals,yes all those workers need to be paid and remember the most important people those customers who kept liat flying and paid those workers 2 years after and not one word an email or text messages from liat about repayment of the over 11 million dollars collected from tickets sales how could we ever trust that Brand again I for one wouldn’t be flying with liat ever again until I’m repaid my money.

  3. Liat owes me monies also, but if it won’t pay it’s workers then who am i? Some islands of the Caribbean never put any money into Liat when it was up and about, yet Liat was flying into those islands ever so often, now they are crying out. I await the outcome.

  4. HEARING plenty talk about a fast ferry between Barbados St Vincent and St Lucia keeping my fingers crossed hurry up and come.

  5. Well written and on point! LIAT because it came out of Montserrat, St.Kitts and Antigua has been devalued by Barbados and St.Vincent and those who will not pay for the ride. LIAT is an essential service which the Governments of the Caribbean are failing to support thereby causing economic and cultural fallout, and increasing the possibility of corrupt practices in aviation with one island shopping for investment.

    • The long and short of it is so long liat is in Antigua and browne boy have anything to do with it
      no one will invest in it sad to say but liat is a lame duck,when browne boy was talking big about how much investors he had lining up to invest in his new liat was just a bunch of hogwash it is sad but its true liat is KAPUT.

Comments are closed.