LIAT is bouncing back a year after suffering a 30 per cent fall-off in flights, when the region was hit by extreme weather events, a senior official of the cash-strapped regional airline said here today.
Legal Counsel for the Antigua and Barbuda-based carrier Diane Shurland told the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) 2018 that the airline had witnessed a turnaround in the number of flights and revenue.
The decline a year ago was mainly due to the impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria on the airline’s critical connection points of Dominica, St Martin and Puerto Rico, she said.
The airline was set to witness a US$13.25 million loss as a result of the hurricanes.
But, with services restored to those destinations and LIAT shifting some of its operations to other countries, including Barbados, Shurland said things were beginning to normalize.
“Today we are exactly back to where we were prior to the hurricanes. Why? Not because we have returned full service but because we have been able to redeploy some of those assets mainly in the southern Caribbean,” she said.
“In Trinidad, Barbados and St Vincent we have seen great growth. We have redeployed some assets to those markets and they have been performing quite well through the summer period and hopefully through the next peak Christmas season,” she said.
With just over a month to go before the 2018 hurricane season officially ends, Shurland, who was speaking as a member of a panel discussion on regional aviation, said LIAT officials remain “extremely nervous, but at the end of the day I think our ability to work together to redeploy, to change our schedule when necessary is essential to ensure a better service”.
Following the hurricanes last year, the chairman of LIAT’s shareholder-governments and Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves, had reported that the struggling airline had secured a US$7 million loan to help it recover.
Antigua and Barbuda was made responsible for US$2.4 million, Barbados for US$3.72 million and St Vincent and the Grenadines for US$840,000, reflecting their respective percentage shares.
Dominica is also a shareholder in the regional air carrier.