The four main shareholders of LIAT 1974 have taken a collective decision to liquidate the iconic regional carrier.
The prime ministers of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Barbados, and St Vincent and the Grenadines held virtual talks aimed at agreeing to either revamp LIAT (1974) or create a new airline. Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne confirmed that the decision was made by all main shareholders during the meeting last Tuesday.
In a statement, Browne said that LIAT is considered by heads as a public good, a social good “that contributes considerably to regional connectivity and makes a web constructive financial contribution to regional economies.”
“Commitments were given in support of a new, efficient, and expanded LIAT 2020 instead, which heads believe will satisfy the immediate regional travel demand,” Browne added.
Stakeholders also agreed to engage the services of an aviation consultancy firm to develop a long-term plan to ensure the sustainability of LIAT and the provision of affordable air transportation.
However, the issue of the millions in severance pay owed to former LIAT workers was reportedly not on the meeting’s agenda.
Hundreds of workers were terminated more than two years ago when the pandemic worsened LIAT’s long-standing financial problems.
The Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) is disappointed that the issue of LIAT’s former employees’ unpaid benefits was left unresolved.
LIALPA said in a statement on Sunday, “We find it disgraceful that discussions on a new entity could be addressed with such urgency, while over six hundred former employees who continue to face harsh economic conditions have not been given equal attention or any attention at all.”
But LIALPA is still optimistic that the owed payments will be taken care of in a satisfactory way at future meetings of regional prime ministers.
“We have always advocated the importance of the airline for regional integration, tourism, and to regional economies. LIAT (1974) Ltd has made significant contributions to the relief efforts in the wake of natural disasters. The airline also transported much-needed medical staff through the region in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, yet, the four shareholder prime ministers found it fit to shut it down.” added LIALPA
LIALPA also thinks that a new study may not be necessary because many studies have already been done, and the recommendations from those studies have never been used.
They are saying that these funds and efforts might be better used to help the former workers and their families.