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ANTIGUA | PM Browne cries 'foul' as B'dos and St. Vincent pull LIAT landing rights

Featured Prime Minister Gaston Browne Prime Minister Gaston Browne
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Dec 7–Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has criticised the decision of Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, two former shareholder governments of the regional airline LIAT, for withdrawing landing rights, thus forcing the suspension of  LIAT’s planned flights into those countries.

On Saturday, LIAT said it was forced to suspend services to two of its previously announced destinations while it awaits the approval from the relevant authorities in Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines,

“LIAT will succeed, notwithstanding the artificial impediments that these countries are creating,” Browne said on his weekend radio programme in response to the development.

“In fact, it’s an extremely unfortunate development in which these impediments are being developed, notwithstanding the fact that LIAT has valid flight approvals to fly to those countries. LIAT is not a new carrier. LIAT is a legacy carrier that has been servicing these countries for decades,” Browne declared to his radio audience.

LIAT, which is now under Administration, had announced the resumption of regular flights, five days a week to seven destinations across its network: Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Kitts, and St Vincent.

It was hoped that the limited schedule of flights would return connectivity to these destinations, which were impacted by the airline’s suspension of commercial services in March due to financial problems and the COVID-19 pandemic that forced many Caribbean countries to shut down their borders.

LIAT said prior to its suspension of services, it had been operating to Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines “on valid flight approvals, which have not expired,” adding “ LIAT operated a scheduled flight to Barbados on Monday, November 30.

In crying 'foul' against LIAT by Barbados and St. Vincent, Browne said “The irony is, there were no such requirements for other carriers. All of the other airlines that resumed services to those countries, they had no such requirement so the question is why are they discriminating against LIAT." In addition, they have also reportedly ask LIAT to make pre-payments for landing fees, which he says is an unfair request, given that other carriers have not been asked to do the same.

“LIAT is a regional institution within the OECS and the broader CARICOM and it should be given national treatment; not to be treated as some stepchild, but to be embraced as a regional carrier, and if anything, should be given preference, not to be discriminated against.

“If they were to seek to sustain this type of behaviour then clearly it will be a restraining of trade and I presume that the Administrator would want to consider maybe taking them to the Caribbean Court of Justice in its original jurisdiction. So it is a position that cannot be sustained,” Browne told his radio listeners.

In the meantime, Court appointed Administrator for LIAT, Cleveland Seaforth, says he hopes discussions with officials in Barbados on Monday will result in a resolution to the position adopted by Bridgetown to temporarily ban the airline from landing there, as prior to its suspension of services in March, it had been operating to Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines “on valid flight approvals, which have not expired.”

According to Seaforth,  the Barbados authorities had informedLIAT last week that “we would have to make new arrangements before we could fly into Barbados.

“We don’t necessarily agree with them because we have the permit which allows us to fly into Barbados until July 2024. We dispatched a letter to them late on Friday asking them to reconsider the decision. Ee have to go through a process of dialogue with them which I hope could take place on Monday and we come to some kind of understanding,” Seaforth told the state-owned ABS Television.

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Last modified onMonday, 07 December 2020 10:50
  • Countries: Antigua_Barbuda