LIAT senior management’s “unbelievable arrogance, gross disrespect for customers”

robert maclellan Tourism

“Across much of the world, airline passenger numbers are rising strongly but at LIAT they have dropped.”

Tourism expert Robert MacLellan sounds off on LIAT’s crisis

On 28 August LIAT’s CEO, Ian Brunton, talked to Caribbean media and finally acknowledged in public some of the real facts behind the airline’s chaotic operations over the last three months. He also described LIAT’s worrying current financial position, in the same month that the airline has taken on a US$65 million loan from the Caribbean Development Bank to fund new aircraft.

However, it was reported that Mr Brunton has refused to have an investigation to hold people accountable for the recent chaos at LIAT. Instead, he said he will organise a “post mortem” (an unfortunate phrase) on what went wrong and use this to reward staff who have performed well during the crisis. Those who “dropped the ball” would be identified for “counseling or better training”.

This statement represents an unbelievable level of arrogance on the part of LIAT senior management and conveys gross disrespect for its customers! Ignore the widespread calls across the Eastern Caribbean for senior management resignations or dismissals at the airline. Instead, LIAT institutes some counseling and better training – presumably, for middle level and operative staff only? No personal responsibility accepted or culpability acknowledged on the part of LIAT’s Chairman, the CEO or the Director of Commercial and Customer Experience – all of whom have presided over three months of disastrous operations across the Eastern Caribbean and an equally disastrous public relations / communications exercise.

Ignore the huge inconvenience and, in some cases, trauma caused to a high percentage of LIAT’s customers consistently over three months. Ignore the great damage done by LIAT’s management to the general economy of the Eastern Caribbean and to prospects for future inward investment. Ignore the negative impact on the region’s reputation as an international tourism destination. Ignore the damage done to LIAT’s management / staff relations. Ignore the potentially fatal damage to LIAT’s own future viability.

Most people agree that the Eastern Caribbean desperately needs LIAT but, going forward, LIAT desperately needs directors and senior management who will take responsibility and who can drive a “low cost airline” strategy that will truly serve the region and not stagger from one financial crisis to another. Success at LIAT is not just about new larger aircraft, future success is about running a marketing led business, with higher passenger volumes and an efficient cost structure.

The latest LIAT management focus appears to be on better future complaints handling, rather than on more useful market research as to what LIAT’s current customers, and potential customers, need and how much they are prepared to pay. With that data, LIAT can strategise how to deliver the right service at the right price to their larger market that existed several years ago. This may involve the airline reverting to code sharing some routes with other Caribbean carriers because the LIAT route network, as currently operated, is not viable without a substantial increase in overall traffic. Across much of the world, airline passenger numbers are rising strongly but at LIAT they have dropped.

In the 2013/14 financial year, LIAT is increasing its already substantial debt by at least US$65 million dollars and yet Mr Brunton reported a 10% (US$30 million) decline in 2012/13 revenue against 2011/12 results. He further stated that company expenses, related to stranded passengers during LIAT’s recent busiest summer months, will have wiped out profits for that period this year. Clearly, this will have a harsh negative impact on LIAT’s 2013/14 results and will likely necessitate a significant early re-write of last year’s strategy plan and the related medium term financial projections for the airline.

The point is LIAT’S PROBLEMS ARE NOT OVER YET. A continuation of the current LIAT management style will not increase revenue, will not attract new equity investors and is not going to achieve the positive financial results necessary to cover the airline’s future higher levels of debt service, associated with funding the new aircraft.  That vicious circle in LIAT’s historical business model needs to be broken now and, as recent events so clearly prove, this can only be achieved with fresh new expertise at board director and senior management level.

Robert MacLellan

Robert MacLellan is Managing Director of MacLellan & Associates, the region’s leading hospitality consultancy since 1997. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, a Member of the International Society of Hospitality Consultants and has a Masters Degree in International Hotel Management. This is his eighth article published in Barbados Free Press.

14 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Barbados, Barbados Tourism

14 responses to “LIAT senior management’s “unbelievable arrogance, gross disrespect for customers”

  1. John Rice

    I will never ever come back to the Caribbean it took me 18 hours to get from SVG via BB to Miami

    Never ever had such shity service in my whole life

  2. Mike

    It is easy for MacLellan to blast LIAT without offering any positive suggestions for improvement. No one can defend the poor LIAT service and management must clearly accept responsibility for the current situation or pass the baton to new management. LIAT must look to identify the problems it faces and come up with realistic and workable solutions. We all know that you cannot run an airline on LIAT’s current model of servicing many unprofitable routes and show any decent financial return.
    This has been a PR disaster for LIAT; The airline should be commended, however, for putting safety first.

  3. Anonymous

    You can’t tell Politians how to run anything, take the Politics out of LIAT

  4. it really is game over---it really is !!

    Used Liat fo some island hopping last week…what a shambles….be a long time before I do it again….so Liat doing more damage than BTA

    Let em go bust, maybe whoever steps in will appreciate that customers want service

  5. shame on you

    I have done 8 flights in 8 weeks and 8 delays ranging from 2 hours to 3 days.
    No offer for compensation. I am only one of thousands who will try our best to avoid liat in the future. They need com petition and a new management.

  6. Jimny Cricket

    Went return to St. Lucia from Barbados this week. This airline is PURE GARBAGE. The part I like was the putting everyone on the airplane to sit and stew in the boiling heat for 45 minutes while waiting for one fucking passenger to arrive on another delayed LIAT coming to Barbados.

  7. Jimny Cricket

    on the return to Barbados the flight was 4 hours delayed because according to the flight crew “folkes in Antigua forgert they has passengers to take to Barbados”

  8. Willie & Rib Bone Air Lines

    Me and Rib Bone has jes return from a prolong holiday curtesy of the US of A Custums what detain us as Person of Intrest becuz they claim we violatin the air space of the USA cuz we din’t bother with no visa when we go to visit and lern to fly airplanes so we can open the new “Willie and Rib Bone Flyin Circus Airline, LLD” There enuff trubble wit liat airlines dat we belive it time for your stalwart intrepenoorers to get into da airplane bidness. We is alreddy sucksesful bankers an inbestment laundrey men (you can visit us at the rum shop on da coast road-but beware OF THE POLIS PRESENCE WHO MAY TRY TO GET YOU TO ADMID TO HANKY PANKY). We flyin jes one airplane for da presence and passenger space be limited til we figure how to tye more folks onto da plane and be sure it can make da trip beyond da twelve mile limit. Rib Bone say he gonna fly to Grenada dis weekend to drop some herbs off wit his cuzzin Meat Ball who is unable to take da trip to Bim cuz he on da Watcher List cuz his old girlfren Rohanna da Ho drop da dime on da boy.
    Meantimes, da chair of da bord, dat’s me! gonna meet with dat lady from Russia who work outta dat rum shop by da airport what we vacated bout a year ago cuz of dat problem wit unpaid commishuns to you know hoo. Swetlana, who frum Russia say dat her man Pooty Poot got a line on a airplane da old airport in Grenada and it ain’t gonna cost near nuffin to buy. Meantimes, here a pickshur of “Da Sleepin’ Beauty” which is da flagship of the Flyin Circus.
    We glad to be relese from da claws of da US of A Custums who done one of dose skwat and cough tests on us when we in da custody but they get only a surprise of smelly air from Rib Bone behinder.
    We happy to be back on da air wit da BFP and see you in da iar soon when dey make dat coast road better for da takin off.
    Captin Willie of W&RBFCA, LLD

  9. Nora

    The LIAT abuse solution is a new start carrier up with fuel efficient airplanes base on other Islands other than Barbados or Antigua.

  10. Django

    Liat needs cleaning, all the staff including the board of Directors, top management, management, workers want firing and replacing by competent persons… This company is still alive because its a government venture and the money is coming from taxpayers so no one cares….

  11. zorro

    Liat is a way for politicians to thief money from taxpayers….The rest is just fake.

  12. TheWatcher

    Isn’t this what “we” wanted?
    The poor manner in which Red-jet was treated is testimony to the belief that we love mediocrity. So now, we’re stuck with a regional carrier run by professional screw-ups and nitwits whose ego’s far exceed the collective abilities of their management skills.
    Leave Island Aviation Trash alone and let it fall.
    No more money put into it, jail the management and get real business people to run the show!
    I dare you!

  13. Sunshine Sunny Shine

    I mean there is an easy solution to all of this that would knock this fella off his props and its simply: FLY WITH CARIBBEAN AIRWAYS AND YOU WON’T BE Late In Arrival Time..with LIAT. Dahhhh

  14. We are too poor to be able to afford a government run airline, simple as that.