LIAT AND its WOES…is.. BETTER DAYS COMING?

As LIAT continues to face the challenges that seems to be ever so present within its operations, one can only continue to wonder how long can the cash-strapped Airline continue under this condition with its present management structure, which has proven to be grossly inefficient in running a business as dynamic and heavily capital intensive as an Airline.

Having been in business since 1974 and still is, demonstrates the viability and definite need for the Airline if placed in the right hands. LIAT without any dispute is indeed an essential service to the Caribbean Region and must be treated as such.

However the airline should not continue to be left in the hands of those who lack vision and a sense of appreciation of where the airline should be in 2013 and beyond. In this economically challenging time, one has to be prepared to make sacrifices and also review priorities with a sense of urgency and to set definitive goals.

The management of LIAT would have already been versed and knowledgeable with the mountain of complaints from the traveling public as it relates to the cost of airfares through the region as compared to extra regional fares. It is indeed ridiculous, exploitative and a clear act of exploitation of its monopoly status.

Even taking the rising cost of fuel into consideration cannot justify LIAT’s exorbitant fares throughout the region in comparison to other international carriers flying the same route. However LIAT always goes on the defensive in arguing that a greater percentage of the high fares are as a result of airport, government and other service taxes in the region.

In other words they have no control but are only being compliant. To the traveling public, this may be a bitter pill to swallow but to what benefit to them, only continued white colour harassment when travelling, as all the airports in the region are extremely inconsistent with their security protocols. Surly not one Caribbean.

The governments are all turning a blind eye and blocking their ears to the cries of the traveling public. This is only more needed revenue into their coffers. This needs to be quantified and be tangible to be accepted and justified. In other words, both LIAT and the various Government Entities who overlook the Airport Authorities are doing a poor job in selling this to an already frustrated traveling public.

The poor planning on the part of LIAT with their fleet renewal is now adding woes to an already cash-strapped and poorly managed entity. Did LIAT seek any advice from the Trinidad and Tobago flag carrier CARIBBEAN AIRLINES when they did their phase fleet renewal from MD83 to their Boeing 737-800 Next Generation Jets? Did they seek adequate and comprehensive advice as it relates to their choice of the ATR aircraft?




Sometimes cost is not always the better judge when coming to proven safety and reliability in this industry. There should be no compromise on reliability and safety. If they did it was apparent that they did not understand the logistics and dynamics in a fleet renewal laid out to them, and if they did not, more reason why the entire management team of LIAT needs to be revisited.

The correlation in phasing in a new aircraft type goes hand in hand with the phase training of the pilots for the new type. Existing fleet on hand should match pilots held back to continue an effective operation until a smooth fleet renewal is complete. The use of contract crew to facilitate and train crew to be online are effective as did by CAL (Caribbean Airlines) but even though costly is better money spent than is being spent right now for accommodation of distress passengers and deliverance of poor service.

Proper planning favours a prepared mind. If LIAT and the active shareholder governments are serious about the way forward for the airline, a new approach should be sought in governing the affairs of the company. With this new and genuine approach for success, other hesitant governments will renew their interest and subsequently commit funding to the airline.

They should also appreciate the committed and dedicated crew that LIAT is so fortunate to have, their pilots are among the most skilled in this region and this should not be taken for granted as demand for such skilled and dedicated crews are high in Africa, India and the Middle East.

Don’t frustrate them. Let’s keep our skilled pilots home with their families and save LIAT. The Caribbean Airline. It is an essential service. At these Caricom summits there must be genuine, committed and meaningful dialogue where regional air transport is concerned among all members and not the dry and casual dialogue as is customary.

LIAT must be part of the One Caribbean Airline hopeful. This is for another discussion.

 

Roger Alexis

 

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