LIAT to cease operations on January 24
ST JOHN’S, Antigua (CMC) – The court-appointed administrator for the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, Cleveland Seaforth, says the airline will wind up its operations in its current form on January 24 this year.
In a letter to staff outlining the latest position regarding the Antigua-based LIAT (1974) Limited on Thursday, Seaforth wrote “after careful consideration and evaluation of the present operations, a decision has been taken by the court-appointed administrator to permanently cease all commercial flying operations as of close of business on January 24, 2024.
“As a result of the foregoing, you are hereby notified that your employment with LIAT (1974) Limited (in administration) will be made redundant effective February 4, 2024.”
The move is expected to result in more than 90 employees being made redundant without any payment and a promise that obligations will be met.
The airline is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
During the presentation of his country’s national budget last month, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said his government had embraced the responsibility to restructure and resurrect LIAT, “with a vision of returning the airline to the regional skies”.
Browne said the airline, which has been under administration since July 24, 2020, “has long been an essential thread in the fabric of Caribbean connectivity”.
LIAT, prior to entering into administration had been servicing several regional destinations and has since scaled down its operations and is now servicing Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Guyana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, San Juan Puerto Rico, St Kitts, St Lucia and St Maarten.
“In 2023, despite hurdles, including unserviceable aircraft, unresolved issues for former workers, financial constraints, staff attrition, and disruptions caused by the hurricane season, LIAT 1974 Limited operated a limited schedule, ensuring vital connectivity across destinations with 167 dedicated staff,” Browne said of the airline.
Browne said that the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) will play a critical role in solidifying the arrangement among the governments, adding that this will set the stage for finalising the arrangement with Air Peace, a private Nigerian airline founded in 2013, “so that LIAT 2020 can begin operations, thereby securing a promising future for regional travel”.
Browne said that in 2024, the Antigua and Barbuda government will spend an estimated EC$30 million to “ensure LIAT 2020 Ltd has all the aircraft needed and appropriate maintenance and operational arrangements are in place for the safe, reliable, and efficient delivery of service to the people of the region”.
“In the spirit of optimism and faith in our ability to rise above challenges, we draw inspiration from the words, ‘the glory of the latter house shall be greater than the former’,” Browne told legislators, adding that “just as our nation has overcome adversities in the past, so too shall LIAT 2020 emerge stronger, more efficient, sustainable, and better positioned to serve the needs of our people and our Caribbean neighbours”.
In his letter Seaforth told the staff the company was not in a position to make any severance payments at this stage, but indicated that it would not be shying away from its obligations to them on severance, vacation pay, retroactive pay and any outstanding salaries.
“The company recognises its obligation as it relates to any of the [aforementioned] applicable entitlements, which will be provided to you under separate cover within 45 days of this letter after the respective computations have been completed,” Seaforth said.
“The payment of any indebtedness to you cannot be made at this time. However, every effort will be made by the administrator to secure the best outcome in respect of the indebtedness to all employees in accordance with the company’s legal and contractual requirements,” Seaforth wrote. He thanked the workers for their “valuable contribution” to LIAT (1974) Limited which resumed flying operations on November 1, 2020.