LIAT gets official go ahead to buy new aircraft
A meeting of LIAT shareholder governments in Barbados last Friday has paved the way for a fleet upgrade for the airline.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday July 23, 2012 – The twin-engine turboprop Dash-8 aircraft that has become synonymous with LIAT for more than 20 years could soon no longer be the signature mode of transport for the Antigua-based airline.
That is because a meeting of the majority shareholders of LIAT in Barbados last Friday (July 20) came to a unanimous decision on one aircraft type to renew LIAT’s ageing fleet.
“The Company will now proceed to discussions with the manufacturer of the first type selected. The discussions are intended to consummate in an agreement for the acquisition of new aircraft for the airline. For a number of reasons, we do not wish to declare just which aircraft type has been chosen. It would also be inappropriate at this stage before discussion with the manufacturers to give an indication of the decision of the Company in the selection of an aircraft type,” said Dr Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines in a prepared statement at the end of the meeting.
While Gonsalves, his counterparts Freundel Stuart, prime minister of Barbados and Dr Baldwin Spencer, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, and the company shareholders are keeping the decision close to their chests, speculation floating about on the internet is that it might be some type of regional jet that has a greater capacity to allow the airline to expand beyond its current route network of 21 destinations. Airline officials met with representatives from Bombardier, Embraer and ATR last year to review possible aircraft options.
Following last Friday’s meeting, Chairman of the airline Dr Jean Holder said the fleet renewal would begin with the replacement of seven aircraft. LIAT currently has about 18 Dash-8 aircraft that are reportedly an average age of 24 years old. The cost of this fleet renewal is said to be around US$50 million.
Regarding the changing of the rest of the aircraft in the fleet, according to a release issued over the weekend, following recommendations from the company’s board of directors and management the three prime ministers decided to defer the decision on other aircraft types to allow certain matters to be explored. It is anticipated that these decisions will be made in the short term.
LIAT further stated that it anticipates that negotiations would commence immediately and proceed swiftly and soon thereafter a formal announcement will be made regarding the new aircraft selected.