Antigua PM Says LIAT 2020 Moves Closer To Taking To The Skies

(CMC) – Prime Minister Gaston Browne says regional shareholder governments in the now defunct LIAT (1975) Limited have agreed to sell at least three aircraft to the newly formed LIAT 2020 paving the way for the launch of the inter-regional airline.

Browne described the move as “significant” saying it would facilitate a smooth transition into the new airline that is being formed in partnership with Air Peace, a private Nigerian airline founded in 2013.

He said that the new airline could launch its operations within 60 to 90 days.

“Within the last couple of days we have had the approvals from all of the heads of shareholding governments to sell their planes or aircraft to Antigua and Barbuda and I think now the administrator (Cleveland Seaforth) is seeking to have a court hearing to have the deal ratified by the courts.

“The Caribbean Development Bank they have concurred as well. So we are now a little closer towards the acquisition those aircraft,” he said, adding “we would be paying a total US$12.1 million to acquire the aircraft and we will have to spend I believe at least another eight million US dollars to get them fully operational”.

Late last year, Browne said that his administration had already indicated that it is prepared to invest between US$15 to 20 million in the new venture.

He said then that when the other shareholder governments of LIAT (1974) Ltd – Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines – had decided to collapse the airline in the wake of the challenges it faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, Antigua and Barbuda decided against the move.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Browne has insisted that his administration would not be negotiating 100 per cent funding of severance payment to former LIAT workers.

“We are not talking to them if they are going to push for 100 per cent. There is no way that we can accept a 100 per cent gratuitous payment. This is not a legal payment of a severance, this is a gratuity payment, an exgratia payment, a compassion payment, whatever you want to call it.

“We are now down to 32 per cent. If the union wishes to engage us to discuss the settling of the 32 per cent compassionate payment, we will do so,” Browne said, adding “I have also indicated in the past that this offer will not remain indefinitely”.

The government had originally offered a 50 per cent compassion payment in cash and bonds to the former employees that Browne said amounts to EC$110 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents).

The Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) has said in the past that it would continue to seek the 100 per cent severance payment to the former airline employees.