Vincentians receiving crumbs from LIAT Says PS

Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Mr. Godfred Pompey have written to the regional airline, LIAT, about its performance, highlighting concerns about the ongoing scheduling problems and cancellations facing the Vincentian travelling public, and requesting an urgent meeting by 18th September.

Media Consultant in the Prime Minister’s Office, Elson Crick says in a release that the issue was first raised in a letter to LIAT by the Prime Minister on 25th February 2016, against the backdrop of a letter by LIAT on the 17th February 2016, ‘requesting a further advance of XCD810,000 by St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

In responding to the request, Prime Minister Gonsalves explained that, among other things, SVG was not well served by the current schedule of the airline, and said that SVG cannot be considered to “be in a condition akin to that of an abused spouse, in which commitment is taken for granted, amidst shabby treatment”.

On Friday, 2nd September 2016, the Prime Minister once again raised the lack of adequate service and poor scheduling to with LIAT top officials.

On 4th September 2016, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Mr. Godfred Pompey wrote LIAT’s Legal Counsel, Ms. Diane Shurland, expressing similar concerns.

Pompey told Shurland, “It is understood that Flight LI738 on which the SVG Football Team was booked, was enroute to Trinidad and Tobago when in the wisdom of someone in Operations, Antigua directed the Aircraft to return to the E.T. Joshua Airport with the understanding that the Team would be accommodated on the early morning flight to Trinidad and Tobago, knowing that the Team’s connecting flight out of Trinidad and Tobago on COPA Airlines was 6:15 a.m. Sunday, 4th September 2016”.

“Since the month of June, LIAT’s service to St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been deteriorating with no improvement in sight. As a Major Shareholder, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been receiving the crumbs in terms of service. Officers at LIAT are now taking pleasure in shifting the blame of LIAT’s poor service to the Ministry and by extension the management of E.T. Joshua Airport, making demands to keep our Airport open at times beyond 2:00 a.m. This is highly unacceptable since some category of staff is required to report to work at the opening of the airport at 5:30 am,” he said.

LIAT’s management, including Operations, is taking SVG for granted, outlining that the demands for extended operating hours at E.T. Joshua Airport, are unbearable and unreasonable, Pompey wrote.

The major shareholders of the airline are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.