Top representatives from regional airline LIAT are to meet with the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines on Wednesday to discuss concerns over the airline’s service to that country.
The talks come on the heels of strong criticism from Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, following the recent cancellation of a number of flights to Kingstown.
Dr Gonsalves was the latest leader of a shareholder government to hit out at their airline’s service; earlier this year Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit also took LIAT to task for its level of service.
“I can also confirm that the Chief Commercial Officer, the Director of Flight Operations and myself are meeting, in St Vincent, with the Government on Wednesday 14th of September. As St Vincent and the Grenadines is a major shareholder of LIAT, we will meet and seek to resolve these concerns outside of the glare of the media,” CEO Julie Reifer-Jones said in a statement issued this afternoon.
Reifer-Jones confirmed that the airline had cancelled a number of evening services to St Vincent due to adverse weather conditions, and has, on occasion, requested later than normal arrivals into ET Joshua airport, “in order to ensure the flight schedule is maintained”.
“Cancellations due to adverse weather are done in the interest of safety and with regard for the lives of passengers and crew,” the statement said.
Reifer-Jones added that LIAT’s operating schedule is hampered due to the airport’s official closing time of 9:00 p.m., However, the airline has decided to make some network and scheduling changes to avoid the late arrivals into St Vincent.
Chief Commercial Officer Lloyd Carswell added that they are working with major constraints in order to maintain frequencies and service to the various Caribbean islands in the LIAT route network.
“We are trying to serve as many islands, with as much frequency and at the right times as possible and this presents many challenges. We currently operate, on average, 80 flights per day, ranging from the North of the Caribbean to the extreme South with just 9 aircraft. Five years ago LIAT operated a schedule with 17 aircraft,” Carswell said.
Reifer-Jones added that the airline is constrained by limited financial resources and lack of financial support from many of the territories which it serves. She also called for full discussion among regional Heads of Government on the matter.