The Chairman of LIAT, Dr Ralph Gonsalves has expressed fears that the closure of the regional island-hopping carrier is imminent.
That’s because he says most of the countries which use the carrier services are not responding favorably to the airline’s request for US$5.4 million to ensure its survival.
Countries, including the four major shareholders – Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines – along with Grenada, have agreed to contribute to the US$5.4 million.
Dominica, is being asked to contribute US$347,938 in light of its 25 weekly flights, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with 52 departures per week, will contribute US$723,711 while Grenada, which has 35 LIAT departures per week, is being asked to contribute US$487,113.
Barbados, which has the 116 weekly departures, the highest by LIAT, is being asked to contribute US$1.614 million, while Antigua and Barbuda, which has 69 departures, will contribute US$960,310.
They were asked to make the contribution in March and the deadline was the 15th of that same month.
But the Vincentian leader said on a radio program this weekend that so far, Grenada is the only government that acceded to LIAT’s request by pumping approximately $1 million into the airline company.
According to Dr. Gonsalves, due to the lack of financial input from the other shareholding countries, LIAT’s closure is imminent.
He said that LIAT has a compliment of 10 aircraft – seven are leased and three are owned by the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) due to monies borrowed and a decision will soon have to be made on the way forward.
He said the company will have to ask the CDB to sell those three aircraft and operate seven of them and then get other smaller airlines like One Caribbean to fly between Grenada and St. Lucia, rather than get LIAT to fly on one of the routes which is going to Trinidad which is not economical.
“… The governments have not been responding so the shareholders are reaching a critical point now and if you ask me, what is likely to happen … there will be a transitional restructuring leading to a closure of LIAT,” he said.
Dr. Gonsalves pointed out that a new airline would then have to be the next option for the region if LIAT is closed.
However, he said that there will be consequences in terms of job losses.
The second option, he indicated, was to give the airline to the private sector completely, while the third option was to close it down and start afresh.
The Roosevelt Skerrit government took a decision in 2012 to invest 8 million dollars into the struggling LIAT.
In response to criticism of the move, Skerrit told DNO then, that Cash injection in LIAT will secure Dominica’s investment in tourism.