Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, has said that he empathizes with his Vincentian counterpart, Doctor Ralph Gonsalves, who has announced that his country will not be injecting any more money into cash strapped LIAT until the carrier’s service to Kingstown improves.
Chastanet, who has himself worked in the airline business, told the Times he knows how frustrating airline business can be.
“I stand behind the Prime Minister (Gonsalves) and any support he needs in terms of trying to resolve some of the operational issues that LIAT has – obviously that would only redound to the benefit of the people of the region,” Chastanet said in an interview with the Times.
He said knowing Gonsalves, he did not think the message the Vincentian leader was sending was to have other options explored while LIAT gets its act together.
“Obviously it’s for him to articulate that,” Chastanet said.
However speaking from his own perspective, the Saint Lucia Prime Minister said he is not convinced that LIAT can fulfill all the needs of the region.
He recalled that he always makes the comparison between the Bahamas and the OECS.
Chastanet said the Bahamas has a population of 370,000 people while the OECS has 700,000 – one million with the inclusion of Barbados.
“The Bahamas has twenty-five commercial airlines while here in the OECS we have one,” Chastanet observed.
According to the Saint Lucia PM, there is absolutely no way that LIAT, with one type of aircraft can met all the needs of the region.
Chastanet, a former Tourism Minister, asserted that there should be no debate on that matter as the proof was clear.
He said the shareholders of LIAT will have to determine whether the carrier can make money with its current structure.
Chastanet disclosed that Saint Lucia will be announcing initiatives very soon to open up its own skies to facilitate competition.