PRIME MINISTER, Gaston Browne says he shares the concerns of his Grenadian counterpart

By Recardo Mendez Published on October 10, 2022
PRIME MINISTER, Gaston Browne says he shares the concerns of his Grenadian counterpart
ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA PRIME MINISTER Gaston Browne says he shares the concerns of his Grenadian counterpart, Dickon Mitchell, who has said his administration is prepared to lease an aircraft if Caribbean governments are unable to sort out the regional transportation sector by year-end.
Caribbean travel has been thrown into chaos following the collapse of the Antigua-based regional airline, LIAT (1974) limited with the region travelling population disgruntled at the inability to move around as freely as they used to during LIAT’s operations.
In an exclusive interview aired on WPG10 in Grenada last Friday, Mitchell said the regional airline sector needs “urgent fixing” and that there needs to be more decisive movement on the issue before yearend.
“If by October, November, we don’t have an arrangement …then it means if Grenada has to go and lease the planes so that we can fly between Grenada and Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago we will have to do so.”
Browne told the state-owned ABS Radio and Television on Sunday that in the interim, “if we don’t scale up LIAT, then he (Mitchell) has a point.
“I think we will have a very strong tourism season in 2022 within the Caribbean, and we can’t have LIAT with three planes and just sit back. So what we plan to do is that we are going to add about two more planes within the next few months, hopefully we can get them in place for the next season.
“We are currently negotiating with a leaser,” he said, also noting that efforts are being made to take the LIAT brand international.
He said there is an “initiative with a Chinese group in which they are about to incorporate a new LIAT entity, LIAT International, and they are prepared to do international flights, probably China, Frankfurt (Germany) Antigua and also to do some charters with other some South American destinations where LIAT does not service.
Last week, the government signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with CFA Global, a subsidiary of Caribbean Tourism Group (CTG), a private regional company involved in investments in travel, tourism, and aviation.
Under the just signed memorandum, CTG T/A “LIAT International” will deploy a fleet of the small, medium, and large aircraft, including Airbus A330, Airbus A320 and ATRs, in passenger service to the Caribbean and South America, along with international travel routes from Europe, according to a statement issued here.
It said that the memorandum for a partnership agreement on the operation of the new Antigua-based LIAT International was signed by the Minister of Works and Finance, Lenox Weston and the CTH chairman, Ma Chao.
“The MOU is in keeping with a commitment from the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to ensure the restructuring and return to commercial service of a regional airline, LIAT 2020,” the statement said, adding, “central to the plan is developing international routes that will bring tourists and businesspersons from Asia and other parts of the world to the Caribbean, using Antigua as a gateway”.
It said one of the proposed routes is from Frankfurt, Germany to Antigua, which could become a viable connection for visitors from China now that a visa-waiver agreement between China and Antigua is set to be signed.
In August, regional leaders met to discuss the situation regarding air transportation in the Caribbean amidst concerns that both regional and international travellers are finding it very expensive and difficult to commute.
Mitchell said then it was agreed “that we would retain a consultant to provide advice to the heads of the region as to how we can address the critical need to have, particularly air transportation resumed at a level that existed prior to COVID-19”.
Prime Minister Browne said the completion of the study will most likely “take several more months”.
LIAT is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said previously that a decision had been taken that would allow Barbados and SVG to turn over their shares in LIAT to St. John’s for one EC dollar.


Recardo Mendez

Recardo Mendez

Sports Reporter

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