The Leeward Island Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) has strongly refuted claims that LIAT’s flight delays and cancellations were being caused by a high level of sickness among its crew.
The association has instead laid the blame squarely at the feet of the company’s executives charging that the problem was due “to a shortage of crew, poor working conditions and an incompetent management team.”
LIALPA made the statement in a press release issued this evening in response to comments made by Chairman of LIAT’s Shareholder Governments Vincentian Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves last Wednesday, following talks involving Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Tourism Minister Richard Sealy and the airline’s chairman and management.
Dr Gonsalves told reporters at a news conference the carrier had issues, which needed urgent attention including “frequent illness among staff.”
“We have too many cancellations caused by the illness of flight crew… we have too many bouts of illness which results in cancellations. The main priority of management is to stabilize the schedule by resolving operational challenges, take action to reduce crew sickness. [Management] will do this is a sensible manner and a sensitive way. You know they have to communicate with the workers, the pilots, the professionals,” he said.
But LIALPA was adamant that this was not the case, insisting that the regional carrier was “woefully short” of adequate crew to properly execute the current flight schedule.
“Over the last two (2) years, LIAT has not employed a single pilot, even though 31 pilots have left the company either because of retirement or resignation. Nineteen of those who have left were trained to fly the newly acquired ATR type aircraft. Management sat on their hands while this mass attrition of ATR pilots occurred, and did nothing to rectify the situation.”
LIALPA warned this would result in continued delays and cancellations during the upcoming busy winter season. It claimed that management was now “in a last minute panic to hire additional crew,” but said it was already too late since it would take at least three to four months for a new pilot to train before they can actually fly passengers.
Meanwhile, the pilot’s body was adamant “ there is no abnormal sickness occurring among crew members.”
Declaring it could no longer keep silent after going beyond the call of duty, LIALPA revealed that some pilots had fallen ill “ due to extremely high and unbearable cockpit temperatures, and also in part, due to the usage of chemicals/ pesticides to address an existing roach infestation in cockpits and passenger cabins.”
LIALPA also made it clear that it would not be held responsible for the airline’s projected losses expected to reach EC$9.2 million dollar by year-end. It pointed fingers at management, claiming that the airline lost millions of dollars when it sold its Dash 8 airplanes.