An inaugural LIAT flight on November 01, the same day of Antigua and Barbuda’s Independence, is that country’s way of celebrating moves by its Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, to save the airline.
The inaugural flight will leave VC Bird International Airport in Antigua and arrive at the Douglas Charles Airport in Dominica on November 1.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Information Minister, Melford Nicholas, told the media that the undertaking is a fitting gesture between the two shareholder countries that have long since shared close ties.
“That is welcome news and it should coincide with independence as well. It is a symbolic importance,” Nicholas said.
LIAT has also indicated that beyond the first flight, the regular schedule of operations will commence on November 8th.
“This is welcome news for the economies, not only of Antigua, but the OECS as well for persons to begin to travel. We are delighted because there is in existence a travel bubble between member states,” he said.
LIAT suspended its commercial traffic in March after many Caribbean islands shut down their airports as part of the measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19, forcing major shareholders to call for a liquidation of the airline.
But Browne was adamant that the airline could be restructured into a more economic viable carrier instead of being liquidated and widening the unemployment gap.
And after heated negotiations, the Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines governments – former shareholders – in July agreed to sell their shares, to accommodate the new reorganization plan outlined by Antigua and Barbuda.
Dominica is the other major shareholder of LIAT.
In July, a high court in Antigua and Barbuda granted a petition allowing for the reorganization of the airline, the appointment of an administrator as well as staying all proceedings relating to the liquidation of the company.
Antigua and Barbuda then proceeded with efforts to reorganize the airline which owes creditors in excess of EC$100 million.
A number of regional leaders have given their commitment to write of debts owed to them by LIAT – the Administrator is also speaking with other creditors, adding that the whole idea is to get to a significant write down in the liabilities so that there could be some level of severance paid to the staff.
The current operating costs of LIAT have not yet been disclosed, nor how much the airline will save from the debt write-offs.
In the case of St Vincent and the Grenadines, its debt write-off will amount to 14 million dollars.
No information has been forthcoming on how much Dominica and Barbados write-offs will amount to.