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While Antigua and Barbados fight, SVG and Dominica suffer

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Will the perennial problem of LIAT and the poor service travellers into and out of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) have to endure every July and December ever be resolved?

We grumble and complain, but this time, the situation seems to be worse than it ever has been before, with passengers being virtually marooned on St Vincent.{{more}} LIAT is totally booked out, with no seats available to or from the island for at least another two weeks or so.

Just when we think the situation could get no worse, LIAT outdoes itself and heaps more tribulations on the hapless travellers in the region.

This time, the problem seems to be one of inadequate capacity, with the airline not having enough aircraft to assign additional service to SVG to meet the demand.

Our information is that the last of the LIAT Dash-8 aircraft went out of service last month, leaving the region to be serviced by just the eight new ATRs, when previously it had been serviced by 13 Dash-8 planes.

This situation might be no big deal for those Eastern Caribbean countries serviced by other large airlines, but for Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines, where the only alternatives are much smaller airlines with very small seating capacity, what has been taking place is catastrophic.

What has become of the plan to redefine the LIAT network by establishing a base in Barbados as was announced in February 2015? That plan surely would have benefited SVG by having more planes based in the south and better able to service our country. And have plans to add two additional ATRs to the fleet been abandoned? Have all shareholders met their commitment to the company to enable the plan to be implemented?

Earlier this year, the Dominican Prime Minister is reported to have chastised LIAT for the “shabby manner” in which Dominican passengers are treated. He allegedly berated LIAT for making Dominican passengers go through tortuous and circuitous routes to get in and out of his island.

It is time for our Prime Minister to again make his voice heard on behalf of the people of this country and make LIAT sit up and take notice. At least Dominican passengers were able to get in and out of the country; we have no options, we are stuck!

We understand too, that many of the problems with the airline have to do with infighting among shareholders, with Barbados pressing for LIAT’s base to be shifted there from Antigua and Barbuda, while that country in turn is indicating that it wants to become the major shareholder, and its Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, adamant that LIAT will continue to have its headquarters in his country.

In the meantime, while Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda fight, LIAT’s bottom line suffers, passengers are frustrated, tens of thousands of productive hours are wasted in airports and LIAT’s other two shareholder states, Dominica and SVG, who are heavily dependent on LIAT, are hindered in their development efforts.

Enough is enough! It is time for a permanent solution to be crafted and implemented.

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