Adrian Loveridge Continues To Ask The Searching Questions To LIAT~Our Only Inter-regional Air Transport Service

Having just paid an incredible US$459 for return air travel between Barbados and St. Maarten, a total of 840 miles with Caribbean Airlines, I was attracted by the colourful LIAT ‘ads’ appearing in the local press headlined ‘get a hair raising deal. 40% off all (h) air fares’. Conditions clearly state that the last booking day was today (18th May) and travel must take place between May 30 and 7 June, 2007. So I then tried to book ONE seat through their website on any of their destinations.

Below is a list of the lowest available airfare on any flights operating on those particular days. Airfares are from Barbados, return, shown in US$ and include all applicable taxes:

Anguilla $366

Dominica $150

Grenada $136

Guadeloupe $340

Martinique $198

Nevis $314

St. Kitts $285

St. Vincent $111

St. Juan $394

Santo Domingo $539

St. Maarten $310

St. Croix $395

St. Lucia $100

St. Thomas $395

Tobago $159

Tortola $355

Trinidad $166

Please note: The ‘ads’ clearly state ‘40% off all (h)air fares’.

Source: Nation

The only real ‘bargain’ appears to be travelling to St. Lucia where ironically enough their Minister of Tourism, Allen Chastanet, has just announced that American Eagle will shortly be operating a Barbados/St. Lucia/Barbados service. So is it mere co-incidence that airfares have been pitched lower on this route, and if more competition was introduced on other routes then lower airfares would become the norm?

Just asking!

Adrian Loveridge

18 May 2007

BU’s Comment:

At a time when CSME is being touted by our Caribbean leaders as the way forward we must admit that the free movement of people is integral to CSME being successful. Why is it that the airline which is owned by the islands of the Caribbean cannot design an efficient solution which does not act as a barrier to the objective of CSME? We continue to be boggle at inefficient decision making which LIAT attracts. It appears that as a Caribbean people we will continue to be fragmented as a people while the “fuzzy duddies” who lead us continue to be happen with being a large fish in a small pond!

18 thoughts on “Adrian Loveridge Continues To Ask The Searching Questions To LIAT~Our Only Inter-regional Air Transport Service

  1. I wonder if ANY of you have given a thought as to what it costs to run an airline anywhere, never mind a pure short-haul airline operating in a harsh environment, where in many cases airports cannot be used at night, so aircraft utilization (the key to profitability)is low. Add to that all the political interference that plagues just about any transporation system in the Caribbean, and you have the recipe for disaster. It’s strange, but unlike running an hotel, just about everybody knows how to run an airline. That’s why airlines the world over, and particulary in the Americas, are all basket cases. My guess is that, up until now, Stanford has been subsidizing Caribbean Star heavily in the hope that one day LIAT would collapse under the strain. It worked. Now, he has to recoup and start operating based on real costs. The airline business is highly regulated, particularly when it comes to safety (would we want it any other way?). But safety comes at a price. So do landing fees, burgeoning fuel costs, and a myriad other items that ALWAYS come expensive to the airline business. If we want cheap fares to enable Caribbean integration (and I’m not sure that we do want it), then governments will have to subsidize the airline – that means all of us taxpayers. Believe me, the lesser of the two evils is paying the true fare, because once subsidies are around, the pigs will be at the trough again.

  2. Peltdown Man…

    Some interesting points but if we following your rationale, how do we explain Ryanair, EasyJet, SouthWest, JetBlue etc etc etc.

    At least since 1974, LIAT does not appear to have operated as a commercial airline. Every time their cashflow flow dried up, out came the hands for more taxpayer monies rather than actually tackle the real problems.
    And who in the industry has seen their current business plan?

    I was also not impressed with Caribbean Star or Sun but I sincerely believe that as the CTO, Secretary General, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace stated yesterday that a low cost, low fare Caribbean Airline is an achievable objective.

    Governments (especially our own) must also realise that there are only so many ways you can extract taxes. If you make a destination price inhibitive, then people will chose alternative destinations.
    No arrivals. No taxes.
    A typical visitor to Barbados for instance pays US$128.35 non recoverable VAT based on average stay and spend.

  3. In a nutshell if the region cannot make inter-island travel affordable CSME and the resultant benefits will be hard to achieve.

  4. Adrian Loveridge

    Some interesting points but if we following your rationale, how do we explain Ryanair, EasyJet, SouthWest, JetBlue etc etc etc.
    High Aircraft utilization, giveaway landing fees at remote and previously unused airports, operating in very densly populated markets. Easily accessible maintenance support, relatively comfortable physical operating environment, etc etc etc…..

  5. So Peldown Man…

    Isn’t there a compromise, can we not get a little closer to all the items on your list?

    You remember, Carib Express?

    Yes! the airline eventually went bust, but while I acted as a consultant, I devised a programme called Carib Escape.
    Within three months it was producing 22% of the airlines total revenue (including freight) and the simple concept was packaging historically low loaded flights with accommodation.
    Fill the first 50% of the seats, then look at creative ways to fill the second 50%.

  6. Adrian Loveridge

    Yes! the airline eventually went bust, but while I acted as a consultant, I devised a programme called Carib Escape.

    Who could forget carib Express? Just about everything that could be done wrong in creating an intra-regional carrier was done. As I have said before, everybody knows how to run an airline, so some big name businessmen thought that it would automatically work because LIAT was so bad. They all made money as easily as falling off a log, and thought that running an airline would be no different. Wrong aircraft, wrong route set-up, a management team from British Airways that had virtually no experience in running such an enterprise. But the biggest mistake of all had nothing to do with operations and economics. It was the failure to secure traffic rights to those destinations that were most suited to the aircraft being used. Did the airline and the Barbados government really think that Antigua would give rights to a usurper from Barbados, when they virtually owned LIAT? The very fact that you had to devise “Carib Escape” speaks volumes for the crazy nature of the original concept. Marginal cost pricing in the airline industry is nothing new, but obviously you have to cover your overheads eventually. 22% of the total revenue means nothing if the total revenue does not cover total costs. So the Barbadian “businessmen” involved dumped it and crept back to their cash cow businesses to lick their wounds.
    Not a good example, Adrian. 6/10 try harder!

  7. Peltdown Man…

    I agree with many of your comments.

    I used to go up to the airport, watch Carib Express flights take off and then around an hour later British Airways land (remember they owned around 20% of Carib Express) . 90% would clear immigration and remaining ones would then connect to a LIAT onto Dominica, Grenada, Tobago etc.

    Sadly, my only influence was with the Escape programme and it still filled lots of seats at economic rates IF the rest had worked.

    BA146’s were great for the purpose they SHOULD have been used for.
    Middle distance flights.
    Barbados to Georgetown, Antigua, St. Maarten, Kingston etc, and who knows even breaking into to the South American Market via Caracas and Belem.
    The Carib Express team I worked with were probably the best group of people I have worked with ANYWHERE in the world.
    Highly motivated and enthusiastic because they came to the airline for all the best reasons.
    They knew it could be done better.

    Yes, sadly the management (some) spoilt it.

    My personal failing was not speaking-up loud enough and often enough to management.

    It will not happen again.

  8. Adrian Loveridge

    The Carib Express team I worked with were probably the best group of people I have worked with ANYWHERE in the world.
    Highly motivated and enthusiastic because they came to the airline for all the best reasons.

    Adrian, I agree wholeheartedly. They were badly let down.

  9. Some good discussion from people who seem to know what they are talking about. So what is the way forward? Can the region support a budget airline given the interplay at work in our region?

  10. So what is the way forward? Can the region support a budget airline given the interplay at work in our region?


    Man, THAT is the question. We surely have to decide what we want from our regional airline. Do we want it to make money, or do we want low fares and high frequency? In the Caribbean, the two are not compatible without “bums on seats”. Add to that the fact that every country has a different idea as to the role of the airline. Some want it operated as a service just to keep communication between the islands. Common sense says that in such a situation, governments must accept that some subsidy is necessary. The problems with subsidies, though, is that they breed compacency within the airline – they remove the motivation to succeed.
    Also, the problem with LIAT and I suspect also with Caribbean Star, is that their employees take exactly the opposite stance to those who once joined Carib Express. From pilots to ground staff, it appears as though loyalty is to themselves first with the airline nowhere to be seen. It’s just another job, and “surely, the management must be out to screw us”. Previous management teams must bear most of the responsibility for this attitude, through poor wages and, in some cases, appalling working conditions. I wouldn’t house my dog in some of the airport accommodations I have seen. A well-trained, highly motivated workforce would do a great deal to make the LIAT experience more pleasant. A management approach that puts the customers before the bean counters would also reap dividends. But can it all be done economically with low air fares? I doubt it, but we have to start somewhere. It would take a man with real guts and plentyof “drop dead” money of his own to take on the task of managing LIAT, because for sure, as soon as things get tough, any support that he thought he had would vanish into the ether.

  11. David/PeltDown Man…

    I totally agree with PeltDown Man , regarding the difference in attitude re: LIAT and Carib Express.
    I don’t totally blame the LIAT employees, I blame the management (or lack of it) over the years.
    Let me give you an example!
    We are trying to play our part of minimising the inevitable effect that record high intra regional airfares will have on both local and regional tourism this year through our re-DISCOVER the Caribbean programme.

    On Sunday I emailed a suggestion to LIAT.
    No response or acknowledgement yet.
    I also copied the same suggestion to a major financial institution on Monday morning.
    The Managing Director responded personally within 30 minutes.

    The Bank is operating is a commercialy competitive environment.

    LIAT is not and they have known for decades that all they have to do is when cashflow dries up, just hold out both hands to regional Governments.

    I met with some of the top tourism people in the Caribbean on Monday and I posed the question ‘Has anyone here seen a copy of the latest LIAT business Plan’?

    A responding NO! was the answer.

    I believe the ONLY way we are going to get a commercially driven successful regional airline is if we can persuade some of the Carib Express people back and make them, the pilots, air crew, maintainance , admin and marketing staff the OWNERS of the airline.

  12. Professor Don Marshall made the point on the airwaves recently that the market driven approach to managing LIAT and other regional airlines is redundant in the context of CSME. In other words the realization must face regional airline shareholders that there is a social responsibility if they want to make regional integration a success.

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  14. I worked for LIAT as a pilot for 16 years, and worked for several airlines before that. I’m no genius or management expert, but I have (proven) intelligence and creativity, and even I could see that it was the “permanent” middle management team who were really running the airline, and in most things coerced the temporary CEOs and other top management into doing things the “old” way.

    A LIAT middle manager once told me, when I asked if there was not an easier way to do a particularly difficult task he was working on, “Hey, this is the way it has always been done, and this is the way it will always be done!”

    Not all middle managers are that obtuse, but it’s a fairly true reflection.

    Over the years LIAT has been through several “diets” to pare down and reduce costs. In all respects the employees have taken the brunt of the attacks and management the minimum necessary. Most middle management from before 1995 are still there.

    But LIAT still stinks, economically, so what is the problem? Obviously, the problem is what is still there – which is management and, in no small part, the Board.

    Like Mr. Loveridge, I have occasionally written to LIAT Officers – including the CEO and Chairman – and by and large get no response. The responses I do get from managers are dismissive, in the vein that this is they way they do things and my suggestions ares worthless or a waste of their time.

    I’m now retired from LIAT (but still working in transportation), and I know that big businesses are wasteful. But by now, after all the trials, tribulation and competition over the years, something should have clicked at LIAT and the Board and management should not still be living the old “Kremlin” mentality.

    As I have been saying about the most recent fiasco where the pilots went on a sick-out (again… there was one which shut the entire airline down before 1995) perhaps it is time to remove both the entire Board and the entire management of LIAT and find others who are both competent and open to efficient change.

    The most compelling factor in this drastic suggestion is that any company’s management team should allow contract negotiations to drag on for twelve years – and still not be resolved in continuing acrimony and need for arbitration. As I said, this has happened before, and was due to the same reasons (dragged out negotiations over many years and still no sign of agreement over the next many years).

    This Board and management is wasteful far beyond stupidity and idiocy… it is clearly time for a sea change across the board (no pun intended).

  15. I agree with the writer above and also suggest that in addition to changing the whole management team,Liat SHOULD be removed from Antigua to barbados as its headquarters.

    However in this present enviroment of ‘anti-Barbados’,I don’t think the P.M. will be willing to consider this.

    The Antigua headquarters is padded with a lot of political appointments and these workers are very incompetent and rude.

    In addition that fat guy desmond browne is completely pathetic at his job as communication specialist.


  16. One thing is for sure, the PMs have to order this. We all know that West Indians don’t resign, no matter how incompetent, corrupt or stupid they are exposed to be, they HAVE to be pushed – and if pushed they usually start legal action to try and squeeze even more money out of the public trough.

    So don’t expect the Chairman to step down, nor any of the existing Board Members or managers, it just ain’t going to happen. They are put there as favour or reward, and they are not going to pull their own pockets even if that ensures LIAT’s survival.

    As for Barbados as Head Office, even as a true loyal Bajan I know that LIAT’s core works better in Antigua that it ever could in Barbados. At home you should know by now that we Bajans can’t do anything unless it takes a month and involves wading through a wobbleton of red tape, permits, surveys, committees and licences so that everybody along the line gets to feel important, and that red tape stuff is something Antiguans don’t use very much.

    Plus, Barbados is not physically central to the route network… and Antigua is.

    I would advocate a move of Head Office, but maybe to St. Kitts – in anticipation of expansion of LIAT’s routes to Jamaica (maybe also Cayman, Turks&Caicos and Cuba) and in efficient managemeht the addition of jets to the fleet so LIAT could become the REAL Caribbean airline – now that Trinidad has taken it’s foot off of LIAT’s neck (majority ownership seat on the Board, and fly on the wall thereafter for political sabotage purposes), where it has been all these years crushing LIAT’s aspirations beforeb they were able to bud in order to ensure BWIA’s monopoly and survival over extra-regional routes.

  17. Well, a whole seven months after my last Post on this thread, and nothing has really changed (as expected). The LIAT pilots had a sick-out, threatened to go on full strike, and now they are in arbitration.

    There is still a temporary CEO (a Board Member) after the former incompetent – yet another non-regional – was fired for dispensing largesse to certain employees.

    I saw the Board was advertising for a new CEO. That was several months ago, still no announcement – I wonder if they are copying the Air Jamaica Privatisation team, who have been playing the silence game for over a year now while allowing certain rumours to go unchecked.

    Despite being partly impressed with the changes Mr. Challenger has made, I sincerely doubt there will be any significant changes at LIAT in the near future.

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