Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Fully operational by end of 2014

By mid-January 2014, seven of the 12 new aircraft being purchased by airline LIAT will be in place, with the remaining airplanes expected to be in operation by the end of 2014.

Word of this came from officials of LIAT during a ceremony held last Friday, which saw shareholder governments signing loans from the Caribbean Development Bank, for which the finances will then be put on-lend to LIAT to purchase the new aircraft. Speaking during the ceremony, Chairman of LIAT, Dr. Jean Holder, noted that the timing of the Fleet Modernisation Project and the loans is by no means a coincidence, and as such, he said that when the project is complete, customers can expect to receive better service.

“By 2012 the frequent breakdown of the existing 20-year-old LIAT aircraft had made it difficult to
fulfil the demands of a schedule, which was designed in response to the demands for service requested by Caribbean countries. To ensure safety, each problem had to be fixed before an aircraft could be returned to service. This, however, resulted in poor on-time performance and constant dissatisfaction of the customer,” he lamented.

Given that reality, Dr. Holder said the decision was taken to establish a re-fleeting committee which examined what needed to be done and it was determined the entire fleet would be changed at a cost of US$100 million and that the process had to begin without delay.

“I wish to put on record that changing all your old aircraft for new aircraft of a different type, while training all your pilots and engineers in France to operate and service the new aircraft, while having the regulatory bodies in 21 different countries certify each new aircraft before it can operate to their country, simultaneously with continuing to operate a scheduled service to all countries at the busiest period of the year, and while the old aircraft continue to breakdown every day, is to say the least, an extremely difficult task,” he noted.

The chairman added, “It has been hard on the public, for which I apologise, and it has been hard on the LIAT staff. On reflection, the public should have been made aware much earlier of what LIAT was attempting to do, the timing of which was largely driven by external circumstances, and that disruptions in the service would be inevitable. At this point, I promise you however, that LIAT must and will do better.”

It is against that backdrop that he indicated that in 2012, LIAT carried just under 800 000 passengers throughout the Caribbean, and he said with the help of the new aircraft, they hope to increase the
number of passengers exponentially. (JRT)

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