Sep 01, 2009 News
Regional carrier LIAT Airlines is to re-examine the current high airfares charged by the Antigua-based carrier as the Chief Executive Officer, Brian Challenger, agrees that the fares are high.
Speaking at a Press conference in Curacao on Friday, Challenger explained that while the airline is desirous of addressing this issue, there are a number of other factors that are hindering immediate reduction of the fares.
Challenger noted that the issue of high rentals for LIAT’s carriers and the high taxes charged by Caribbean governments are partly responsible for the high airfares.
While Challenger is hoping to deal with this issue, a number of passengers faced a delayed flight for 10 hours at Curacao airport. The flight was scheduled to leave the Curacao airport for Trinidad and then Barbados.
“I agree that the cost of travel in the Caribbean is very expensive and that really reflects the cost for providing the service, but to provide the type of service which LIAT provides is a very costly exercise. LIAT spends about US$70,000 to lease an aircraft, and most of our aircrafts are leased, and that is the norm internationally. Very few airlines actually own aircrafts and pilots are expensive, engineers are expensive technology that we use, if you really think about all the personnel involved in getting you onto a flight and take you off. It’s a costly exercise,” Challenger said.
He explained that the high cost reflects the cost of the operations, as LIAT is a publicly owned company.
According to Challenger, it is primarily owned by three governments and its function is not to really make a profit or providing major returns to its shareholders, but principally to cover its cost including its capital and operational costs.
Additionally, he noted that the price initially went up in 2006 when an agreement was met between LIAT and Caribbean Star. Caribbean Star had very low airfares, but in the agreement with LIAT, agreed to raise their fares by about 25 per cent.
“I am not trying to give an excuse, we do recognise that the costs are high and we are trying to see what we can do to bring down some of those costs” the CEO promised.
Meanwhile, on the issue of a recent move by the Guyana government to meet with airlines plying the Georgetown route to discuss airfares, Challenger reported that while he heard of the move which he welcomed, his carrier has not been approached by the Government of Guyana and remains open for any such discussion.
LIAT has been recently plagued by a number of late arrivals and delayed flights, and according to the CEO, there are some instances where this happens, but he dismissed allegations that it is a regular occurrence, noting that the airline, like any other may have flight problems, particularly at this time when there are some teething problems with pilots who have been going on strikes over contractual matters.
He noted that when it comes to connecting flights, LIAT made it clear that it will not be responsible for the delays of other airlines when it abolished this service in 2006.
Challenger noted that another problem the airline has been facing at destinations where larger carriers are not plying is excess baggage, which sometimes results in persons receiving their baggage late.
He explained that owing to the fact that these destinations from which larger carriers are not operating, LIAT and other regional airlines are left to transport the large baggage of passengers flying outside the Caribbean and these airlines do not have the cargo capacity to accommodate excess baggage.
The airline boss has also revealed that talks between LIAT and the Barbados Government regarding direct flights to Jamaica are hanging in the balance.
“We had some discussion with the tourist board (Barbados) but at this point in time we don’t serve Jamaica, and to be honest it’s probably not going to happen directly into the near future …we are not closing the door on it, but at this point in time it’s not something that we agree on,” Challenger explained.
The LIAT boss is also hoping that all Caribbean Governments buy more shares in the airline which he feels can improve its efficiency.
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