ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Monday November 28, 2016 – Absenteeism is costing regional airline LIAT millions of dollars in revenue.
The Antigua-based carrier said it is losing millions of dollars in revenue because of crew-affected illnesses.
However, LIAT’s pilots have blamed a region-wide flu outbreak and the Zika virus as the reason for the increased illnesses.
Observer Media in Antigua reported that it had perused documents that showed just how the absence of pilots and cabin crew — due to the illness — had taken a toll on the carrier’s already stretched resources. According to the documents, so far for this month alone, roughly 175 flights have been cancelled due to pilots calling in sick.
“To put this into perspective, LIAT operated around 1,600 flights, so the pilots’ sickness caused the cancellation of 11 per cent, causing around 6,500 passengers’ flights to be cancelled,” the document stated. “In addition, these cancellations caused significant delays and disruptions to over 15,000 passengers.”
According to LIAT, the average number of flight cancellations for most airlines is around one per cent.
Over 1,000 passengers had to stay overnight in hotels because of the cancellations this month, after approximately 200 pilots called in sick.
“This equates to around 14 per cent sickness with the industry average being between three and five per cent,” the LIAT document stated.
It also revealed the number of sick days reported by cabin crew stood at 83 so far this November: “This equates to around 11 per cent sickness, with the industry average being four per cent.”
In total, LIAT estimates that these disruptions caused by crew sickness cost over EC$1 million (US$370,370) in the past few weeks.
Captain Carl Burke, who heads the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA), has denied that the pilots reporting sick was a result of some form of industrial action. He said LIAT’s recently publicized sick leave policy has forced more pilots to obtain certified sick leave for their illnesses.