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LIAT board to hear suggestions on new planes on Thursday


LIAT’s board of directors will hear on Thursday suggestions on the types of aircraft to replace the regional airline’s aging fleet.{{more}}

The plan is to bring in 50-seater turbo prop and larger turbo prop aircraft, Ian A. Brunton, LIAT’s chief executive officer, told Caribbean journalists in Antigua on Friday.

“Our plans fall to that because demand shows we need both types of aircraft,” he said, adding that fleet change and market expansion go together.

“The actual mix of the types of aircraft — the jury is still out on it. It could be half and half — half 50-, half 70-seater — or it can be as low as three-nine,” he said.

LIAT currently has 14 Bombardier Dash H aircraft, which have an average age of 19 years.

And Brunton said LIAT’s executive team was ready to suggest to the board the types of planes to replace the existing ones.

“We have our answers for them. I can’t reveal the final recommendations here, except to say we know that the 50-seater, as we said before, is the ATR-42…”

But as the airline seeks to expand its market, Brunton said it is considering destinations outside the turbo prop range, some of which it has not announced.

“So, eventually, obviously, LIAT would be looking to go into the jets. Because there is room for serving many, many islands, doing a better service by giving them reach into the near South American and near North American markets. And, of course, we will be looking at that going forward,” he further said.

Legal opinion pending And Thursday’s meeting should also hear a legal opinion on practices of Trinidad-owned Caribbean Airlines.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, chair of LIAT shareholder governments, has said that the subsidy Port-of-Spain gives to Caribbean Airlines might contravene the treaty that established CARICOM.

Kingstown, St John’s and Bridgetown are the major shareholding capitals of LIAT.

“Hopefully, we will get that report finalised and have it to the board,” Brunton said of the legal opinion.

“Obviously, we have a duty to do that to see whether any regulations, CARICOM rules are broken and so on, quite apart from the fact that it does affect us, commercially,” he said.

But the CEO said LIAT is willing to talk with the Kamla Persad Bissessar government in Trinidad.

“We have in the next few weeks … a road show … and we will be talking to the Trinidad government and all the governments and stakeholders in the region and everything would be on the table,” he said.

And chair of LIAT Dr Jean Holder said at the press conference that LIAT did not benefit from subsidies as other Caribbean airlines.

“Unlike all the other Caribbean airlines in the region, LIAT does not enjoy the luxury of an annual subsidy in its annual budget, paid up front to cushion annual financial losses,” he said of the airline, which has lost EC$66 million since 2008. (