Frankly I have employed extraordinary restraint in commenting on the subject of LIAT, because at the end of the day I believe until the politics is completely removed from the management of the airline and it is operated […]in a purely commercial environment, then the carrier has no long term future without massive taxpayer subsidies.
Our current breed of politicians, simply do not have the testicular fortitude to put the long term sustainability of a truly regional airline over petty national policies. Perhaps best demonstrated when discussion took place about moving the carrier to a more logical and equally important and viable operational base.
What changed my mind in offering an observation was a recent media release that bragged ‘average load factors for the month of July (2015) were just under 76 percent’.
The missive went on to quote very impressive passenger traffic increases to Guyana (up 62 per cent) Tortola (up 32 per cent) Barbados (up 15 per cent) St, Maarten (up 15 per cent year on year) and Antigua (up 9 per cent). Very impressive and encouraging and I do not wish to take anything away from this achievement. However, what it does tell me there is still a great of opportunity with the nearly 25 per cent (or one in four empty seats).
Without wanting to sound pompous, I cannot think of many other individuals who have ploughed tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars into promoting intra Caribbean travel over the last four decades. Our re-DISCOVER the Caribbean Show which operated for eight years was a model for building this market, not just for tourism, but exhibiting enormous potential for helping transform regional trade.
I cannot recall just how many times I have pointed out to senior LIAT management to carefully study the loadings and see if there is any repetitive history to specific times and flight routes that regularly record lower numbers and offer a small percentage of the otherwise empty seats at lower prices. What also defies logic is that our current administration attributes at least some of the increased UK visitor arrivals to the lowering of the dreaded Advanced Passenger Duty (APD) for adults and exemption for children. But they do not seem to link the lowering of taxes on intra regional travel as an incentive to stimulate intra Caribbean tourism.
With LIAT’s current ‘new’ fleet of 5 ATR 42’s and 4 ATR 72’s they have an overall capacity of 522 seats daily for each sector flown. Based on each aircraft operating a minimum two rotations each day, which in reality is more likely to be eight flight segments, that means anything from 260 to over 1,000 seats are being flown empty every single day of the year, based on the July figures.
Surely through creative marketing and pricing we can fill those seats. One other area of concern is that it’s long overdue that the taxpayer is given a full explanation concerning the disposal of the older Dash 8 planes. Is the failure to sell the aircraft tied into the hangar fire and destruction of records?
Do we have a right to know?