Regional airline LIAT cancelled several flights on Thursday citing “operational reasons”.
The cash-strapped airline did not elaborate on the “operational reasons” but had recently warned several regional destinations that they had until March 15, to respond to the airline’s minimal revenue guarantee (MRG) proposals.
Under and MRG model, it is likely that a few flights may be cut if the government is not prepared to fund them with a guarantee with St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves indicating that theoretically, several countries have no quarrel with the MRG.
The airline said that it was cancelling flights LI 374 from Barbados to St. Lucia; LI 375 from St. Lucia to Barbados; LI 337 from Barbados to Grenada; LI 338 from Grenada to Barbados; LI 769 from Barbados to St. Vincent and LI 770 from St. Vincent to Barbados.
“Affected passengers will be moved to other flights at no charge. Please contact our Reservations Call Centre or your travel agent for more information,” LIAT said in a brief statement posted on its Facebook page.
The announcement coincides with a meeting held in Barbados on Wednesday attended by Gonsalves and host Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
Media reports said that the final decision on the future of the LIAT is expected later this week following the eight hour meeting that was attended by trade union representatives.
The reports said that officials have been asked to come up with a number of proposals to present to Mottley before weekend.
“A number of positions were explored and those present are to now get back to the governments later this week regarding the positions that were tabled,” the Nation newspaper Thursday quoted a source close to the negotiations as saying.
Last week, the airline shareholders governments – Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines – said they were seeking to get Caribbean countries to contribute a total of US$5.4 million in emergency funding needed to keep the airline in the sky.
The pilots have already rejected a call from them to take a salary cut as the Antigua-based airline seeks to reverse its financial situation.
“Looking at the situation as it is right now, if we are to go forward doing the things that we are doing now, if we do not look at the scheduling, if we do not look at how we are going to generate the revenue going forward, we can give up 10 per cent now and we have no idea when the company will rebound for us to recoup that investment or even for them to start paying the staff back,” President of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIAPA), Carl Burke said.
Last week, as she delivered her country’s national budget, Prime Minister Mottley told legislators the core elements of a new, sustainable model for the regional airline were already clear and that the restructuring is expected to dramatically cut the airline’s cost to the local taxpayer.
She acknowledged that LIAT is a tough issue to crack and that there are “more government shareholders in LIAT than in any airline in the world”.