Barbados Today:-Yet another scathing criticism has been issued of the service provided by the beleaguered regional airline LIAT.
The latest attack comes from Grenada’s Tourism Minister Clarice Modeste who said she was forced to endure a three hours delay while travelling on official government business recently.
About a week ago I went to St Lucia, I had a meeting in the afternoon. LIAT had a two-hour delay. On the way back it was a one-hour delay,” Modeste related to journalists during a press conference today at the Hilton Hotel.
“One of my colleague ministers who had to do a press conference this morning he was in another island . . . I just briefly glanced that the press conference was postponed and I am almost certain that it was because of LIAT because it has happened before.
“So you can’t plan for the next day, you have to give an extra 24 hours just in case. A number of my colleagues have had to overnight in Barbados or wherever and so it is really a serious problem for us in terms of inter-Caribbean,” she added.
Less than a week ago, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security in St Vincent, Godfrey Pompey, warned “it is time for LIAT to get its act and attitude towards the travelling public of St Vincent and the Grenadines together” as he threatened that once LIAT makes a request for the E.T. Joshua Airport to remain open beyond the 11:30 p.m. agreed operating hours, his ministry will bill the airline for staff overtime.
In response to that letter, LIAT has promised to do better.
“LIAT have decided to make some network and scheduling changes to avoid the late arrivals into St Vincent,” Chief Executive Officer Julie Reifer-Jones said in a statement.
She also confirmed that a meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, September 14 in St Vincent & the Grenadines with the LIAT management team.
In April, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit requested an urgent meeting of the shareholders of LIAT and demanded an immediate investigation into the cancellation of a morning flight into Dominica on April 8.
The cancellation reportedly affected over 40 passengers in Dominica.
Skerrit said he was utterly disgusted at the shabby manner in which his island was being treated by the airline, saying it “clearly appears to be an awful, negative attitude towards Dominica by senior personnel at LIAT”.
“I am warning, now, that this must stop,” the Dominican leader had said in his letter.
Modeste, who is in Barbados for the annual Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s State of the Industry Conference, said it was almost laughable that the tourism-dependent region, which should be interacting more and promoting intra-regional travel, was having the most difficulty achieving such on account of LIAT.
“One of [the factors] is the lateness, unavailability of flights but another thing, if you look at the fares, you can go to the United States or perhaps to the UK with a similar airfare. So although some governments, including my Prime Minister have been very vocal, some have been quiet because they have more investment, but I believe that we need to address this. We need to get together and speak about it,” the Grenada official said.
When challenged about the high government taxes which LIAT has said, in some cases, amount to more than the actual airfare, Modeste maintained that LIAT fares were generally high.
“I am not a statistician, I don’t know a lot about figures but I know what it costs me to go from point A to point B and when I compare it, I know that LIAT doesn’t compare well. Now the governments are saying that this is not so and I know that sometimes they have done presentations to demonstrate this. So I will not really categorically say that it is untruthful but from the information I have it doesn’t seem so at all,” she said.
“I respect LIAT for the historical service it has given and I really hope that good sense, commonsense will prevail and that the powers that be will get together, but it really does not seem so because we have protested over the years and it is not working. So we’re looking for other takers,” she said