ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Oct 26 2016 – A top official of regional airline LIAT has warned that the current level of sickness plaguing the Antigua-based carrier was simply “unsustainable for a commercial airline”.
Acting Chief Executive Officer Julie Reifer-Jones issued the warning in a statement in which the company revealed that so far this year, it has had to cancel a total of 261 flights and delay a further 564 due to the sickness of crew members.
“The average number of sick days, per member of crew, is around 21 days,” the statement said.
Reifer-Jones however sought to assure customers that LIAT’s management was doing all within its power to ensure the flight schedule was maintained with little or no disruption.
She also maintained that the airline, which currently employs 104 pilots and 76 cabin crew to fly a schedule based on a fleet of nine ATR’s, had sufficient crew to meet its current schedule.
“The airline’s pilots fly an average of 42 hours over a period of 28 days, well within regulatory requirements and they are guaranteed payment for a minimum of 55 flight hours,” the statement said.
However, it was pointed out that while the industry daily average for crew sickness for an airline was between three and five percent, LIAT’s crew sickness levels for 2016, equated to 13 percent, a pattern, which the company said, had been in existence for some time.
Just last week, the Vincentian prime minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who is the chairman of the airline’s shareholder governments, had complained that there were too many flight cancellations caused by illness of flight crew
“. . . we have too many bouts of illness which results in cancellations” he said, adding that “the main priority of the management is to stabilize the schedule by resolving operational challenges, take action to reduce crew sickness.
“[Management] will do this in a sensible manner and a sensitive way,” Gonsalves had said at the time, while reporting that the airline was on course to record an EC$9.2 million (Bds$6.8 million) loss for 2016.