(Searvchlight)Regional airline LIAT had a “direct and catalytic” impact of over US$320 million annually on the economies it served, during its years of operation.
This is according to analysis conducted by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) which was shared by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves during a press briefing at Cabinet Room last Tuesday.
The analysis is contained in a document produced by the CDB which concerns the re-establishment of a regional airline and details the process by which concerned parties, like the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) could cause the return of an airline to the skies of the region.
The Prime Minister said a regional air carrier of LIAT’s type is a marginal financial proposition, but it is “absolutely necessary and desirable as a social and economic vehicle for islands and particularly islands which are engaged in the business of tourism, which means moving people and we are a mobile people.”
He something needed to be done “soonest”.
Gonsalves said the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is moving “seriously and actively in pursuance of an additional option in the air to what we have,” while thanking Caribbean Airlines (CAL) for the number of planes and seats they have been providing for regional travel “despite having some challenges between management and workers”.
He noted also that he would like if companies like Adelphi Air or Mustique Airways could look at purchasing another three or so aircraft to be part of the mix for shorter journeys.
LIAT 1974 Ltd, which serviced the Caribbean for almost 50 years was shut down in July 2020, then restructured in November 2020, providing a very limited service to the region. Only one or two of its ATR42-600s are operational at present.
On Tuesday, Gonsalves said there are one or two private airlines trying to assist with regional travel but we need something which is a core and evolved in a manner to suit our circumstances and requirements.
He said the owners of the airline which is under consideration would be the countries of the OECS, with the countries served by the airline being equity partners or providers of market support.
No decision has been made as to the proposed airline’s headquarters, but he said the Argyle International Airport (AIA) was as good a place as any, and “I’m offering it.”
Gonsalves said if not the headquarters, the AIA could be a base, because “it is important on the southern side” and there is a lot of space at Argyle “to do things”.