Does a recent announcement from Jean Holder, chairman of regional airline Liat, spell a new round of problems for the financially troubled carrier?
Holder hinted at “decisive action” to deal with several unprofitable Eastern Caribbean routes served by the Antigua-based carrier.
Liat is supported by four shareholder governments: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“We have been trying, before going the harsh route, to persuade people to invest. We have met with a number of governments and prime ministers. We have expressed to them that we will have no other option but to cut some services,” Holder said at a recent news conference.
“It is clear that Liat cannot continue to provide essential services to 21 Caribbean countries on a daily basis, offering close to 1,000 flights a week, with only four countries putting funds into this operation,” he said.
Liat plans to call in experts to analyze and assess the current route structure, according to Holder.
The carrier, which was established in 1956, has had a series of bumps along the way in recent times.
Technical and maintenance issues plagued the carrier last summer when it began a refleeting operation to move new 68-seat ATR 72 aircraft into its system to replace aging Dash-8 planes.
Liat’s shareholder governments signed off on a 13-year, $65 million loan from the Caribbean Development Bank last year to finance the eight new aircraft, which have been delivered in stages. The last two are set to arrive later this year.
Staffing issues, weather delays, mechanical breakdowns of older aircraft and higher-than-normal demand during the peak travel months played havoc throughout the network last summer.
Last fall, Liat said it was taking a look at several new markets, including Haiti, Panama, Jamaica, Aruba and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
To date, no new markets have been announced.