BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) — Regional carrier LIAT, is currently negotiating a US$60 million loan with the Caribbean Development Bank, to assist with the replacement of its ageing Dash 8 fleet with modern ATR72 aircraft from July.
Chairman of the LIAT shareholder governments and St Vincent and the Grenadines prime minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, made this disclosure during a press conference following a shareholders’ meeting last Friday in Barbados.
He said the loan would also be used to replace the burnt-out hangar facilities in Antigua and added that plans to acquire the 12 ATR72 aircraft were on target and the planes would be purchased by 2014.
Gonsalves said the current Dash 8 fleet was costly to maintain and, therefore, the acquisition of new aircraft was critical to LIAT’s operations.
“Without LIAT this region cannot function. Over the last 20 years, some 30 airlines have come and gone. But, we must always remember the airline that is doing the donkey work. LIAT does the donkey work and we should appreciate that. So, let us start having an appreciation for this airline which has survived and been tried for 57 years. When the history is properly recorded, generations to come will applaud the heroic efforts of those in government and in the administration of LIAT, to provide this important vehicle for the region to benefit,” he emphasised.
Meanwhile, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, said LIAT was vital to the region and its people and noted: “LIAT has been in the air for some 57 years and without it, we all know what would have happened to the movement of our people throughout the region. It certainly, quite frankly, has prevented us from reaching the level we have reached as a people in this region.
“At the same time, you can see that every effort is being made by shareholders, by the management, employees of LIAT and other stakeholders, to ensure that there are issues to be addressed and we are determined to ensure that they are addressed as we move forward,” he continued.
Spencer said there was scope for other countries to support LIAT, and stressed that he would use every opportunity to continue to lobby in this regard.
“Without LIAT flying up and down the region, all of our respective economies would be affected and I am urging my colleagues in the other member states to recognise the importance of this institution,” he added.