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Caribbean Airline LIAT to Continue Flying Despite Reports
Caribbean regional airline, LIAT, has insisted that it will continue operations, despite local media reports that the airline is on the verge of collapse. The airline’s CEO has rebuffed claims from media in one of the carrier’s home countries of Barbados, that the airline was about to run out of money. Shareholders have been in negotiations for over three months over the future of the airline. All scheduled flights are still running to all of LIAT’s 15 destinations.
LIAT CEO, Julie Reifer-Jones, has released a statement of disappointment in regards to reports that the airline is on the verge of collapse. Earlier this week, a report was published in Barbados Today, quoting labor sources close to the airline, that it was close to shutting down.
The airline’s CEO stated these reports were damaging to the airline, and hurt its public image in the region. She did acknowledge that the airline is facing economic challenges, however, it is continuing to operate its full schedule.
LIAT is primarily owned by the governments of Antigua, Barbuda, Barbados, and St. Vincent and Grenadines. Over the past three months, negotiations have been underway between the governments of Antigua and Barbados to inject cash into the airline. However the Barbados media has reported that these negotiations have stalled out.
The main sticking point in the negotiations is over which shareholder will take on payments of the airline’s debt as well as the proportion of shares owned by each shareholder.
There are reports that the Barbadian government is refusing to continue to support the airline as a loss-making venture. This year the carrier financial struggles have been exasperated by the weather in the Caribbean, with several storms passing through the LIAT’s service area over that summer. In the past, the airline has had a reputation for delays, cancellations, and poor customer service. However, recently the airline has been able to turn this reputation around with a switch from the DeHavilland Dash-8 to ATR 42 and 72 aircraft.
LIAT is expected to be a top priority at the Barbadian governments, Annual General Meeting, early next month. This isn’t the first time this year the threat of collapse has come over LIAT. Earlier in April, reports surfaced that the Chairman of LIAT shareholders feared that the airline’s closure was imminent.
The airline has been able to continue to operate since then, however with the negotiations between shareholders going on behind-the-scenes. If LIAT does collapse, it will be up to several smaller Caribbean airlines to pick up the services that are vital for the region.
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