Subsidies wanted for LIAT as REDjet spreads wings
The Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister wants help for LIAT as new low-cost carrier REDjet expands into more markets and brings more competition.
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Wednesday July 20, 2011 – Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, whose government is one of LIAT’s major shareholders, is urging his Caribbean neighbours to begin subsidizing the airline to fly to their countries as new budget carrier REDjet continues to make advances on the routes currently operated by LIAT.
His plea comes as the Barbados-based REDjet finally gets approval to fly to and from Trinidad and Tobago and awaits official approval from Jamaica which has also given it clearance. This is in addition to the Barbados-Guyana route the airline currently operates.
Prime Minister Spencer said some Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Member States have benefitted tremendously from the airline’s operations and “cannot do without LIAT, but yet they find it difficult to lend support to LIAT”.
He said just as countries subsidise international carriers, they should extend the same assistance to the Antigua-based LIAT.
LIAT, in which Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are the majority shareholders, has been accused of keeping the cost of regional travel too high, but it has always insisted that taxes have made it difficult to offer lower fares.
The no-frills REDjet, however, has been offering fares as low as US$9.99 before taxes and 37,000 seats went on sale at that price yesterday.
Speaking on the ‘Focus’ programme on local radio station, Crusader Radio, Prime Minister Spencer said while Antigua & Barbuda will consider any proposition made by REDjet, it will remain committed to LIAT.
“Clearly, it will be competition and we are not necessarily against competition as we have always said,” he said.
“What we are against are predatory prices and mechanisms that would definitely affect LIAT and its operations…We will look at it but our interest is to ensure that LIAT is able to survive.”
REDjet has been in discussion with several other Eastern Caribbean countries, including Grenada and St. Kitts and Nevis, on starting services to those countries, but no decisions have yet been made.