Gaston Brown, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, has confirmed that there are plans to liquidate the regional airline. The announcement comes in the wake of mounting losses over the past few years.
As he shared the news with a local radio station, Brown revealed that in 2019 alone LIAT made a loss of around EC$12 million. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has brought further severe financial pressures due to the lack of revenue from customers. At the same time, the carrier has still had to make lease payments while the aircraft have been grounded at its Antigua headquarters.
Despite this unfortunate outcome, there remains a hope that transport links can be maintained within the Caribbean region. If LIAT is liquidated, Brown believes it will be possible to form a new entity, but only with the help of other countries in the region. He outlined the importance of connectivity, saying: “You cannot have an integration movement if people cannot connect.”
For Brown, the formation of a regional airline is an issue of community and connectivity between the Caribbean islands. He hopes that countries will want to co-operate instead of acting “opportunistically fighting us to get the headquarters in their country to displace Antigua and Barbuda”.
If it is to be successful, the reform of LIAT needs to be done quickly and will require help from governments so as to protect the employees of LIAT; otherwise, significant job losses are inevitable. The name LIAT should be retained, as it represents the region and was built by Caribbean people – and, ultimately, that is something to be proud of.