Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has again made it clear that his administration will not support the financially strapped airline LIAT, if there continues to be ‘business as usual’ at the carrier.
“LIAT must change,” Chastanet told reporters Thursday during an impromptu interview.
The former Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister spoke against the backdrop of reports that LIAT shareholder governments will meet in Barbados at month end, amid concerns of a worsening financial crisis that could probably lead to the airline being grounded.
“Obviously it’s a big concern to all of us and I am hoping that at the upcoming meeting they will be able to find a resolution,” Chastanet told reporters.
However he lamented that this has not been the case for many years.
According to Chastanet, LIAT is now confronted with the fact that it must change.
“Even how it is governed must change,” he asserted.
“I think there is an absolute need and and ability to have a successful airline in the region, but it must be able to intertwine business practices as well as its responsibility to provide air services to the countries,” Chastanet explained.
He reiterated that Saint Lucia’s position is that if there are fundamental changes in terms of how LIAT is governed, how its plans are and how the plans will be implemented, this country will be willing to support a ‘new engaged LIAT’.
“If in fact it is going to be business as usual, we would not be in a position to support LIAT,” Chastanet stated.
He said he is very confident that there are other airlines that could very easily fill the gap that is left by LIAT.
“There are other airlines – if in fact LIAT were to shut its doors, that they would be willing to step in and to be able make up the difference – and maybe that’s what we need. We need a fresh start,” he noted.
Chastanet recalled that LIAT shareholders were given three options – privatise; close down LIAT, or restructure.
“They have tried the restructuring now several times and the restructuring hasn’t worked. LIAT was given a complete new lease on life a couple of years ago. Their debt was forgiven; new planes were brought in and it was completely recapitalised and here we are back in the same position,” he lamented.
Chastanet noted that LIAT had complained over the years of competition.
“Well,LIAT has not had any competition for the last seven or eight years. So the fact it that it comes back to the structure of LIAT, in my humble opinion, is what the problem is,” he told reporters.
Chastanet declared that in the absence of LIAT there are other airlines that will ‘step up.’
He did not elaborate.