The cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, observed its 64th anniversary “of serving the Caribbean,” says the last few months have been very turbulent.
The airline, which is now undergoing a restructuring exercise that the Antigua and Barbuda government said it expects to emerge as a “leaner and profitable company,” said in a statement posted on its website that it wanted to thank its employees “past and present that have shaped the legacy of our LIAT.
“Today, we celebrate 64 years of serving the Caribbean. The last few months have been very turbulent for us, and with the state of aviation, the LIAT family has gone through a lot,” it added.
“We are working behind the scenes to return to the Caribbean skies, to bring back that familiar Caribbean feeling that says ‘Love Is Always There.’ Happy Anniversary’”
One Barbados-based online media quoting well-placed sources, Friday reported that the Antigua-based airline was due to begin issuing termination letters to hundreds of employees and management officials on Friday.
They said that the move follows a meeting between the workers’ unions, the Leeward Islands Pilots Association (LIPA), and the administrator of the proposed restructured airline, Cleveland Seaforth.
Last week, the Antigua and Barbuda government said it was prepared to “collapse” the regional airline, LIAT, if it does not emerge as a “new and lean” entity as part of the re-organizational plans cash-strapped airline.
Speaking on his private radio station here, Prime Minister Gaston Browne told listeners that his administration is awaiting the new plan being devised by Seaforth, who he said has already indicated that new contracts would be handed to employees the recapitalized airline.
Browne said that the new LIAT would be operating with four aircraft rather than the 10 it had before and that ‘the number of people working for LIAT in the future will be significantly reduced.
Prime Minister Browne told radio listeners that practically all of the region’s countries are collaborating and that the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St. Vincent, and the Grenadines, and Dominica had written to the administrator agreeing to write off their debts written off.
“If I am not mistaken, we are talking close to EC$70 million in debt would be eliminated from the balance books of LIAT as a result of those countries agreeing to write off the amount due to them. Now there are creditors that the receiver is trying to get to cooperate as well, and he’s presently negotiating with them.”
Last week, Information Minister, Melford Nicholas, said the financially-strapped regional airline is likely to return to the skies in November.