While Antigua’s prime minister is calling on LIAT to slow down and rethink its plan to move its fleet base to Barbados, a Government Senator is urging quite the opposite.
Senator Verla DePeiza wants the move completed as soon as possible – in time for Crop Over this year.
Saying that it simply made more sense to have LIAT’s planes based in Barbados where they would be closer to destinations in the South, she supported the move announced by the airline’s shareholder governments last month as part of a wider plan for the carrier’s operations.
“Bring LIAT home to Barbados and let’s get the inter-island traffic of people working for us again in CARICOM. There may come a moment in time when we can head north again but the harsh reality is that the islands in the south are closer to each other and it makes more sense to deploy our planes in the south for the time being until LIAT can show improvement in its finances,” DePeiza said.
“It may be a bitter pill for one of our neighbours to swallow, but it is an even more bitter pill for more persons than that should LIAT not succeed without having tried to change.”
She added that the move would be a signal event in regional travel.
Shifting the airline’s fleet base is part of a bid to raise revenue, cut high overheads and stem perennial losses at the cash-strapped airline. The announced plan would also include cutting about 180 jobs.
Antigua’s prime minister Gaston Browne, who did not attend the shareholders meeting and whose country was represented by Minister of Public Utilities, Civil Aviation and Transportation Robin Yearwood, is resisting the plan.
However, DePeiza said the adjustments were necessary as a measure to reduce the cost of intra-regional travel.
She contended that the current situation did not augur well for tourism or business, adding that investment opportunities had been “crippled” because travelling around the region was expensive.