The Prime Ministers of Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago and St. Lucia are looking to create an additional airline that might provide competition to LIAT, the regional island-hopping carrier.
Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell gave the hint on Wednesday at a Press Conference held in St. George’s.
Dr. Mitchell told reporters that there needs to be more transport for the Caribbean region without depending on LIAT and indicated that talks are taking place between Grenada, Trinidad and St. Lucia to have additional air transport as well as charter services in the region.
“We can’t sit down and wait for LIAT to get its act together”, said the Grenadian leader who has repeatedly vowed not to pump money into the airline unless some fundamental changes are made.
“… We (will) continue to do whatever we can to support LIAT but not at the expense of the travelling public in the region as a whole,” he added.
Prime Minister Mitchell charged that over the years enough subsidies have been given to LIAT by the various governments for it to serve the region as it should.
“The thing (Liat) is supposed to serve the regional people; therefore, decisions that are made, these decisions must be based on the people, not any and any one government or a Prime Minister or couple Prime Ministers.
“…It has to be based on the service of the people. We can’t be talking about freedom of movement, Single Market and Economy and the people can’t go from one place to the next – nonsense. These are just words and we have to give teeth to the words otherwise it makes no sense repeating it.
“…We can’t have a situation where it cost you more money to go to Barbados from Grenada as compared to going to Miami. So people prefer to go to Miami instead of going to Barbados or St. Kitts and any event it’s not just the money, it’s the ease of travel.
“You step in a plane at 8 o clock and you land in Miami at 11:30, leave Grenada to go to St. Kitts and you losing a day …the frustration and stresses you have to go through…”.
Only four shareholder governments in the region – Antigua & Barbuda, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Dominica and Barbados, currently finance LIAT.
Prime Minister Mitchell also addressed the issue of calls in some quarters in the region for governments to drop the tax on airline tickets in order to give a boost to intra-regional travel among the people.
He said if the issue is the monopoly service or the imposition of taxes on tickets, something should be done about it.
“It is no point that Grenada for example would impose some taxes on a ticket, Barbados does it, Trinidad does it and when the pile goes up it makes it difficult to travel. So, it makes logical sense that we all should reduce the taxes that each government get and you know something, we’ll get more money because a lot more people will travel…right now we are charging ourselves out of the market”, he said.
Prime Minister Mitchell is adamant that he is not taking millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money in Grenada and pump into LIAT while not getting the services required.
“Give me a service and I am prepared to pay”, he quipped.
The Grenadian leader also took a swipe at those regional leaders who have been seeking to block other airlines coming into the region that can provide competition for LIAT.
“We limiting the question of route rights and still not giving open skies…open skies should be a policy that we should all adhere to…open the skies create the competition – you’ll find we won’t lose business.
There is this thing where we’ll lose tax revenue, that’s nonsense, we don’t believe this…”, he said.
The Prime Minister confirmed that LIAT has backed off from its recent decision to cut some of its five daily flights into the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) and will only remove one.