BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday October 6, 2017 – Hurricanes Maria and Irma wreaked havoc on LIAT’s already scarce financial resources and the airline’s Chief Executive Officer Julie Reifer-Jones has called for financial relief for the cash-strapped carrier.
“Frankly, the discussions about relief efforts going forward should include relief efforts for LIAT,” she told reporters in Bridgetown yesterday.
The hurricanes’ Category 5 winds have blown an at least US$4 million hole in LIAT’s operations and Reifer-Jones suggested the figure was likely to rise.
“We are still in the process of refining these numbers, but I would have to say between four to six million US dollars,” she said. “We have been severely impacted by the removal of literally four territories out of the network overnight.”
Reifer-Jones was speaking on the sidelines of a presentation of a US$550,000 cheque by CIBC FirstCaribbean to assist with evacuation flights and other forms of relief for the storm-battered territories of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, St Martin and Turks and Caicos Islands.
The LIAT boss revealed that airline had already provided 54 relief flights to affected countries that were mostly “unfunded”.
She stressed that a review of the carrier’s operations was imperative in the aftermath of the hurricanes, suggesting that the impact would be felt in months to come.
“The issue for us, and this is based on our experience with hurricanes over the years, is that the recovery at the market is not immediate.
“So, it’s not just about the hurricanes. What you have to do is to look at the impact covering the next six to nine months,” the airline CEO explained, while pointing out that it had taken Dominica nine months to a year to return to “a normal state” for travel after Tropical Storm Erika struck the island in August 2015.
“So, during that time the number of flights we had to Dominica were reduced from five to two and over time we increased to the normal levels,” she said, while highlighting the need for a robust regional disaster planning system.
“We need to have a mechanism in place. These things have a cost on the regional air transportation services.”
It has already been a tough financial year for Liat which was expected to record an EC$9.2 million (US$3.4 million) loss at the end of this year.