LIAT Discussion Bigger Than That Of An Airline And Travel; It Is About Us

By: Alex Holder, (Hashtag Ltd.)

Some weeks ago, there was commentary addressing the subject of cost as it relates to our treasured regional airline LIAT and it is unfortunate we all now sit and observe the very public regional disagreement about its future.

Yes, LIAT is not the most viable airline for any tangible operation, based on its current structure and top-heavy management style; certainly not form the business level. And, it is most unfortunate that we, as a region, have not been able to capitalize on our collective talents and ambitions to effectively grow this airline as a viable asset for us today, and our future generations. 

Still, do we need to do away with it?

We are a CARICOM collective of nations and within that an OECS collective – literally larger than the singularity that is Caribbean Airlines out of Trinidad and Tobago. Are we unable? Incompetent? Or unwilling?

Arguments from the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda as well as the former Chief Executive of LIAT augurs well with many consistent sentiments on the viability of what is truly ours.

And, while Antigua is poised to “continue” the legend that is the Leeward Island Air Transport (2020), we must still accept that LIAT has served more than the Leewards and it is, without doubt, the longest-standing Caribbean Airline.

Many things within the region attract opposition and indifference – integration being top amongst them. 

Why though can’t we argue as strongly about the unfortunate restrictions of travel amongst CARICOM states, as we do about the actual airline that connects us all?

The simple answer, in my view, is we are too caught up with what is more important to us as individual states than what is important us a collective.

Looking at the United States or even the European Union, it is obvious that we have failed or outright refused to follow any guidelines form those that have established similar systems before us.

A collective currency is only so far-reaching within the Caribbean, with the EC dollar. Airlines are invested in by the selected few and freedom of movement is demanded accordingly.

But we are an Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) AND, we are a Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Some of us can relate to the challenges of immigration and movement. But let’s not forget the advantages we enjoy as Caribbean nationals – in another state.

Being able to land in London and travel the European Union without interruption. Being able to land in Miami and move the states without challenge. Traveling at a domestic level in each domain. Enjoying “freedom of movement” within a collective, that we are having so much difficulty achieving between our islands.

It is understandable that not every Caribbean destination is financially equipped to carry an airline on its own. But, it should be equally understood that some of us could – to a large extent – handle the collective burden of such an enterprise.

What we need to do is set politics and egos aside and allow the collective to be a collective. There is a reason insurance companies and banks work – the simple trust and reliance on coming together and pooling of resources.

Dominica, Saint Vincent, Grenada, Guyana – these are some of the economies within CARICOM that are not nearly as viable as that of Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, and Saint Lucia; but we are still a collective.

For too long we have allowed our individual development to affect the freedom of movement of our people. Forgetting that regardless of the individual moving, the cost is the same. The tax is the same. This is akin to some of us paying taxes two folds, and to others, it is a deterrent to even want to move.

How do we explain this unfortunate challenge to those who are stranded in islands that are not their native? 

Do we expect them to travel to the United States, get quarantined for two weeks, then travel to their respective territories, and get quarantined again? Taking away four weeks of their liberty and time because we can’t handle the simplicity of movement?

And, who are we to even entertain the idea that most or any of these individuals have a US Visa, or – more so – have the revenue to move that way.

Let us take it to another level and examine the challenges of CARICOM nationals without the CSME Free Movement Certificate or those OECS nationals who are free to move between the individual states. How are they expected to anchor themselves in non-native states for extended periods? Are we asking these people to pay for residences (temporary or otherwise) with non-existent incomes? Are our immigration departments prepared to overlook these challenges and allow these travelers to move on with their lives without a “red stamp” in their passports?

We are a collective and regardless of how we might view our territories, we are THE CARIBBEAN to the “outside world” – a singular grouping. Our small islands do not matter to most. And that makes us responsible for each other. 

LIAT is our airline. Not Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St. Vincent, and St. Kitts, Nevis. It is ours as Caribbean nationals because we all contribute to each other’s economies in one way or another.

Unfortunately, some of us can look at LIAT – despite that literal threat to our overall freedoms – and consider dissolving it, as opposed to putting our minds together and establishing systems that cater to our individuality as a region with according airport and other facility taxes and considerations for regional movement. 

The maturity of the Caribbean as a collective – outside of the OECS and CARICOM as individual sub-groupings – is demanded today.

Are we mature enough to step up, or do we subject ourselves to a consistent atmosphere where it is cheaper to travel directly on the likes of British Airways from Grenada to Antigua for less than is required to travel the same space on OUR “regional airline”?

Let us defy the odds and expectations of those that want to see differently and connect on this – if not for anything else – for our present, future, and collective history. 

10 COMMENTS

  1. aww,.. very nice sentiments, but what you fail to realize is at the end of the day LIAT is still a business and like any other business with extremely poor management is doomed for failure, end of story!

    • So very true, people can cry and bawl all they like, it was run poorly for years with every country’s politicians interfering with the staffing and board members, all of whom are responsible for the inevitable crash. Their protectionism stopped a viable ferry transportation service being established as they always put so many obstacles in the way should it offer LIAT competition. So now due to their incompetence we are stuck at square one with no backup to revert to, If they had allowed ferry services to operate and prosper at least we would have had them as an option, so poorly handled by these failed :”leaders”..

      • All the OECS and some caricom governments in the Caribbean are failures .Hence the reason LIAT will be a failure .

  2. Speaking from the UK I think that after the Covid pandemic air travel by the likes of British Airways (BA) will not be cheaper and looking at the proposed reduction in the size of BA there will inevitably be less flights.

  3. Not to worry, in a few months there will be hundreds of airplanes for sale or lease cheap as the major airlines lose business and shutdown. Each Carib Island can buy their own planes, passengers will pool money for fuel and pilots will work for tips ! The New Economy

  4. The sentiments expressed by the writer are good ones. But, in reality there is no such thing as a Caribbean collective, nor should there be one. The writer is inadvertently talking about some kind of backdoor Federation, whose time is not yet come.

    The Caribbean Single Market And Economy (CSME) is really an attempt at recolonization of the smaller Caribbean territories by the larger ones. It was a premature move. There is not yet a need for a single Caribbean nation.

    The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is different. The islands that make up this subgrouping are each too small to constitute any viable economy or state in the modern sense. Besides, geographically and historically, this subgroup belongs together in a single state. This generation of people in the subregion have a responsibility to the next generation to make this happen. The Subregion has been moving inexorably toward it’s appointed lofty destination.

    For the above reasons, it is very important to have arrangements in place such as travel facilities such as local airline and ferry services. This makes the survival of LIAT 1974 Ltd so necessary. To liquidation of this Company and start up of a new one would be foolish. The challenges for a successor entity will be too much for it to survive, the reason being that by the time the new entity arrives all of LIAT 1974 Ltd marketshare would have already been eroded.

    So, let’s pray that God will endow our political leaders with enough wisdom, knowledge and understanding to proceed along the right lines to achieve success.

  5. LIAT failed, LIAT 1974 Failed, and LIAT now has failed, and will always fail under the same very poor management!

  6. The problem is with the management of LIAT. The greedy managers who launder and steal must be made to account. politicians must also be locked out of it. LIAT should not have to stop and wait for politicians to finish chatting before taking off. this is a business. the problem with the caribbean is that there are to many unprofessionals and egotistical politicians who think they run the show and not enough business minded people. Look at what is happening in Trump america. even this mighty country could not handle the nepotism and corruption. But this is what the caribbean has been practicing for generations now. Time to make people accountable and kick them of political parties and political office.

  7. The writer has express what I consider to be the growing concerns amongst a large number of Caribbean nationals. we now ned to move forward to the good of our survival.

    As Caribbean nations, we need to adopt a single currency. I know it sticks in the “craw” of certain nation who believe they are far better developed and can stand head and shoulders above others in the region. soo what!

    We also need to put aside our political differences. we need to be bigger than that and look at the bigger picture, ” The development, prosperity, and enhancement of the lives of our people”.

    In regards to the failure of LIAT, I agree, poor leadership, top heavy and poor managerial practices, the inability to streamline to suite local conditions and too a certain degree, regional interferences.

    Considering this, with regional co-operation, limited political interference, good management together with the future possibility of operational relocation to a more central base, the phoenix can rise from the ashes.

  8. I like the sentiments of the writer but we must also remember that your idea of a single Caribbean is not wanted. Small island big island mentality on a normal as well as a political scale. The managment of liat is to expensive and there is to much politics involved. What sense does it make to change the head of liat and leave everyone else.
    There are also a lot of herdles as it relate to taxes. Tthe the islands charge so much taxes on tickets that there is no incentive to travel because of price.
    Liat need active competition. The mobbing of all competion to liat has to stop. It goes on an on.
    The liquidation of liat is really not an option and would give the wrong signales on our unity. But then again are we united?

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