ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Monday November 21, 2016 – LIAT has cut its services to Anguilla and Nevis, mere weeks after airline executives announced the carrier would have to sever unprofitable routes.
In a statement issued over the weekend, LIAT announced that it would not renew an arrangement with Caribbean Helicopters of Antigua, which facilitated airlift to the two small islands. The agreement expired on Saturday.
“As we continue to pursue our relentless pursuit of operational efficiency and profitability, both us and our partner, Caribbean Helicopters, have decided not to extend the arrangement,” LIAT’s Chief Commercial Officer, Lloyd Carswell said.
“LIAT is honoured to have been able to assist the islands of Anguilla and Nevis in the augmentation of their airlift for 2016, and we would like to take this opportunity to wish them the very best in the development of their tourism product for the future,” he added.
Airline officials noted that in 2017, “some route rationalization is likely to continue” but they would explore the best possible ways to improve the carrier’s bottom line.
At a meeting of LIAT’s shareholder governments in Barbados on October 19, Chairman Vincentian Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves reported that LIAT was expected to record EC$9.2 million (US$3.4 million) in losses at the end of this year.
The airline’s budgeted total revenue for 2016 was EC$318.8 million (US$118.4 million). He said for the current financial year the cash strapped carrier made a net profit of EC$5(BDS $1.85 million) up to August.
Dr Gonsalves warned that the airline could no longer serve countries that hurt its bottom line, even as he urged more governments to get on board and invest in LIAT.
He added that the airline must not be treated as though it were show business, and outlined a range of reforms over the coming months – including the possibility of staff cuts – to return it to profitability.
“Discussing regional transportation is not part of the entertainment industry and we have had too much entertainment for too long on this subject and we must be serious about it, because that is what keeps our region functioning . . . . And I want to encourage my colleagues, without any rancour but with the loving embrace of solidarity, for us to work together and get more governments involved in this thing and really make changes. Let them come in and make the change,” the Vincentian leader said.
The airline, which employs 669 people despite a budget for only 630, currently operates 578 flights per week to 18 destinations, two of which are served by helicopter. It uses nine ATR aircraft, with a tenth is expected next month.