BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) – Trade unionist Chester Humphrey says it is unfortunate that the majority of Caribbean governments continue to ignore LIAT by refusing to give the regional airline much-needed financial support.
Humphrey, whose Grenada-based trade union TAWU (Technical and Allied Workers Union) represents some LIAT workers, said St Kitts and others need to reverse that hands-off attitude and ensure that they become shareholders in what for the region is a vital transportation link.
The leading trade unionist reiterated that it is unfair for three treasuries (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines) to be “sustaining an institution that is vital to the economies of all of the island states”.
Dominica came on board recently. According to Humphrey, the demise of LIAT would impact heavily on the economies of Caribbean states.
Asked about St Kitts and Nevis not being a current shareholder of the regional airline, the trade unionist said Basseterre should address that matter as a priority.
“Get on board and put equity in the airline, it’s in your best interest. It’s in your best strategy economic interest to do so, it will serve your economy,” is his advice to the St Kitts and Nevis government.
Such help would make it easier for LIAT to quickly re-fleet, according to Humphrey. The company is replacing its 20 year old fleet of Dash 8 aircraft with 12 ATR airplanes, a venture costing the airline US$100 million.
It has so far received two of the new planes. Problem-plagued LIAT was meantime reporting Monday, mechanical hitches affecting one of its flights.
The regional airline said LIAT Flight 774 travelling from Guyana to Barbados on Monday morning, with 43 passengers on board, had a main wheel failure during takeoff.
According to LIAT, the aircraft continued to Barbados’ Grantley Adams International Airport where, as a precautionary measure, emergency services were on standby.
The landing was reported to be uneventful, with the passengers disembarking safely. LIAT officials say the aircraft is being examined by the company’s maintenance department and will undergo checks stipulated by the manufacturer before it is returned to service.
Dissatisfaction with LIAT’s current service was meanwhile being played out in St Kitts, where an angry group of 29 Dominicans stranded from Sunday afternoon were accusing the airline of treating them very badly.
A spokesman for the stranded passengers reported on Monday morning that the group had no idea just when they would be leaving St Kitts. LIAT’s customer relations were described as being sadly lacking. A dentist in the group said his business was suffering because of the delay.