Minister for Tourism, Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen has lamented the disrespect shown by LIAT through its significant reduction of flights to and from Grenada.
LIAT has cut back on a number of flights at the Maurice Bishop International Airport in Point Salines, St. George’s.
The Minister who was addressing the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 2017 budget debate at the Trade Centre last week Tuesday said that the loss of LIAT flights has an effect on the country.
“We lost the direct flight with Caribbean Airlines and regionally we have been severely hurt by the turning out of LIAT over the past year”, she said.
“LIAT move from seven flights (per day) in the past year to two flights and I think one other when they can but Mr. Speaker all of these three flights are when they can because our people and our visitors continue to complain about if they can (leave the island) and when they can,” she added.
This situation, according to Dr. Modeste-Curwen is cause for concern as talks of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and Caribbean Unity are not being manifested through the lack of effort on the part of LIAT.
“We do not see Caribbean Unity in how LIAT operate because they are getting their directives from some of the leaders in the Caribbean, Mr. Speaker and this is very very sad. LIAT has been extremely (disrespectful) not to the Ministry, not just to the Prime Minister or to myself but to the country.
“With less that one month’s notice, they pull out the flight that they know is most critical to Grenada and they know that it would hurt us, so it was targeted not by accident, Mr Speaker, it was targeted.
This is a clear reference to the early morning flight from MBIA to Grantley Adams International airport in Barbados to facilitate Grenadians travelling to the U.S Embassy on visa matters.
In the past, the schedule of the flight was from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to Grenada then onto Barbados but Grenada was cut off from the route.
The female government minister said that LIAT went ahead and cut the service despite serious reservations raised by the Mitchell-led government in St. George’s.
“When they told us about the cutting we knew how it would affect our people; those who go for visa, those who making connected flights in other places and so we begged. We asked them – the CEO of the airport (and) myself, we spoke with them but before I spoke to them, I consulted with my Minister for Finance and I said Prime Minister, you know every airline is saying you have to pay to play, if that comes up what is my directive?
“He (PM Mitchell) said we will pay if we get proper and efficient service and I know that our Minister for Finance is still committed to that because we paid before but we stopped paying because of their disrespectful conduct and we will continue to not pay as long as this behaviour continues. This is a sovereign nation and it must be respected by all Mr. Speaker.
The minister assured the country that whatever flights were lost through LIAT, will be found in another airline, as government was currently engaged in dialogue with other airlines to fill the space.
“It is troubling to know that other airlines are so accommodating …so there are people coming to us. They are calling us and we are negotiating with them. I will not call names but a number of airline services have been offering their services.
“We have approached others and we expect in the not too distant future to be announcing that we have flights. The flights that were taken away from us will be restored to the people. Our government, the Ministry of Tourism, our airlift committee, our GTA -,we are all committed to ensuring that we have flights to keep our people happy and to keep our tourism afloat, Mr. Speaker.
Minister Modeste-Curwen announced that the island will see additional flights in the new year from other major airlines including Jet Blue moving from four to five flights a week to New York beginning in January.