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Antigua PM accuses Barbados, SVG of trying to block LIAT

Antigua PM accuses Barbados, SVG of trying to block LIAT
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne

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ST VINCENT and the Grenadines (SVG) and Barbados have been accused of making deliberate attempts to block the operation of regional airline, LIAT.

The accusation was made by Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister, Gaston Browne following developments that resulted in the airline having to suspend services to two of its previously announced destinations while it awaits the approval from the relevant authorities in Barbados and SVG.

“The airline had previously announced services to Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines was scheduled to begin flights as of November 30. Prior to its suspension of services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline had been operating to these destinations on valid flight approvals, which have not expired,” a release from the airline, dated December 5 said.

According to the release, LIAT operated a scheduled flight to Barbados on November 30 but was informed by both CARICOM territories that new arrangements must be made for the airline to operate in SVG and Barbados.

Browne, in response to the development, has been reported in regional media as saying that “LIAT will succeed, notwithstanding the artificial impediments that these countries are creating”.

Antigua’s prime minister said it was “an extremely unfortunate development” in which the impediments are being developed, notwithstanding that the airline has valid flight approvals to operate in the SVG and Barbados – both former shareholder countries of the airline, whose company is now under administration.

Browne also noted that LIAT was a regional institution and should be given national treatment and should not be treated “as some step-child, but to be embraced as a regional carrier, and if anything, should be given preference, not to be discriminated against”.

The prime minister further noted that if this particular behaviour is to continue, it will be considered restraining of trade, and the administrator would want to consider taking the countries to the Caribbean Court of Justice, so it should not be allowed to continue.

SEARCHLIGHT contacted Carlos James, the minister with responsibility for civil aviation for comment on the issue.

James said he needed to review reports in relation to the matter before commenting. Follow-up calls to the minister were unanswered up to press time.

LIAT’s release on Saturday said it will continue to work with relevant authorities to finalise all new required arrangements

so that connectivity between the destinations of the Caribbean can be maintained.

It also advised passengers whose flights have been affected to contact the LIAT Reservations Call Centre for assistance.

“LIAT will waive all change fees for these passengers due to the inconvenience these cancellations may have caused,” the release said.

LIAT announced in November the resumption of flights five days a week to seven destinations: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Kitts and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

This is the first time that the regional carrier has operated since it suspended commercial services in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

LIAT is currently under Administration, with the administrator being Cleveland Seaforth of BDO Antigua and Barbuda.

The airline is headquartered in Antigua and Barbuda and operates a limited schedule to several destinations across the Caribbean.

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