Tag Archives: Airline News

LIAT Airlines is killing tourism investment throughout the Eastern Caribbean

Liat Airline

The Caribbean Needs Radical Change at LIAT

by Robert MacLellan

During the last week of August our hospitality consultancy organised a visit by potential developers to the Eastern Caribbean. The participants on the trip – from UK, China, Trinidad and St Lucia – all experienced significant delays or cancellations on LIAT flights. I have travelled regularly with LIAT throughout the Caribbean for over sixteen years but recent events represent a new low point.

“The challenge of convincing investors to consider tourism developments in those islands, which are served primarily by LIAT, is now onerous indeed.”

Gregor Nassief’s recent open letter to the LIAT board of directors has already catalogued the airline’s worst ever performance over the last three months and called for management heads to roll. This solicited a response from LIAT’s chairman, Jean Holder, which addressed virtually none of Mr Nassief’s points and seemed only to confirm the level of delusion in the highest ranks of LIAT management. Having received a worthless and self serving response, Mr Nassief has since called directly for Dr Holder’s resignation.

In his initial response to Mr Nassief, Dr Holder refers to the “track record” of the current company leadership and so I felt the need to clarify the true meaning of those words. One dictionary provides the following definition: “Track record: 1.The best recorded performance in a particular track-and-field event at a particular track. 2. The past achievements or performance of a person, organisation or product.” The definitions seem to suggest some degree of excellence, a million miles away from the performance delivered to its customers by LIAT!

Patience with LIAT is now at an end and senior figures in the hotel and tourism industry across the region are quite legitimately questioning Dr Holder’s strategic and financial track record as Chairman of LIAT since 2004. They are equally entitled to evaluate Captain Ian Brunton’s track record, firstly, as former CEO of Caribbean Airlines and his departure from that company and, since 1st August 2012, his track record as CEO of LIAT. Captain Brunton has been responsible since that date for forward planning and day-to-day operation of the airline. Therefore, he must have been closely involved in the recent scheduling of LIAT’s aircraft acquisitions / disposals programme and the associated crew training – the apparent root causes of the recent appalling performance. Continue reading

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Filed under Aviation, Barbados, Barbados Tourism

An open letter about LIAT to Prime Ministers Stuart, Spencer and Gonsalves

It’s often cheaper to charter an executive aircraft than to fly LIAT!

To:
Hon. Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados
Dr. Hon. Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda
Dr. Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent & Grenadines

Gentlemen:

by James Lynch, Twotter pilot extraordinaire!

by James Lynch, Twotter pilot extraordinaire!

Because of my Petition (about LIAT on change.org), I have been contacted by several prominent people, some of them hoteliers in the smaller islands, who are now ACTIVELY seeking alternatives to LIAT’s services for the foreseeable future in protection of their businesses.

It is my considered opinion – supported by many others, including those with similar decades of aviation experience in the region – that unless the owners/shareholders of LIAT make SWEEPING and DETERMINED changes in the way LIAT is run then the travellers of the region WILL find alternate ways of getting where they are going.

The recent month-long “meltdown” LIAT has undergone (which is in part still going on, by the way) has amply demonstrated to those who were inconvenienced that, in the long run, it is actually cheaper to charter an aircraft for a group of five or six people and know for sure that – upon arrival from the other continents – a means of travel will unquestionably be there, and that their baggage will accompany them, than to be stranded in an unfamiliar place for three days (or longer) without baggage, without connections, and without a reliable way to get where they want to go.

I would like to see LIAT continue to serve the eastern Caribbean and the reliable, and be the trusted carrier it can be, but decades of lack of serious political interest in the health of LIAT has now resulted in avery real possibility of its demise.

Years ago LIAT’s conversion from Avro to Dash-8 held no horrors. Yet this fleet conversion from Dash-8 to ATR has been horribly mismanaged and that the CEO is out of his depth. It is also publicly apparent that the Chairman and Board approves of the way CEO Captain Brunton has mismanaged the entire situation.  Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Dominica hotel owner slams LIAT Airlines

Liat Airline

Dominica Hotelier Calls for Executive Changes at LIAT

Dominica hotelier Gregor Nassief has issued an open letter to the Board of Directors of regional airlines LIAT calling for an executive shake-up, insisting that “heads must roll.”  The letter complains of disastrous customer service over the past two months as well as disastrous public relations and the damage this is causing to the region and to fragile economies of island states like Dominica so dependent on tourism and the airline’s service.

August 12, 2013

Board of Directors
LIAT (1974) LTD
V.C. Bird International Airport
P O Box 819
Coolidge
Antigua

Dear Directors:

Re:  Heads must roll

I respectfully ask you, on behalf of the people of the Caribbean, and the people that visit the Caribbean, and especially on behalf of the people of Dominica who depend on LIAT for their travel and also for their tourism industry, to enforce significant change in the executive ranks at LIAT.

This request is being made first because of 8+ weeks of disastrous customer service which continues to this day due to lack of foresight and planning on the part of LIAT’s executives, and second because of LIAT’s disastrous public relations which has revealed the depth of your executives’ indifference to your customers.

It is your duty to hold your executives accountable for their actions and performance.

Disastrous Service

There has been a complete breakdown in service for over 2 months now, which I and most persons traveling LIAT have experienced.  Here is a list of incidents:  Continue reading

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Filed under Aviation, Barbados

Aviation expert: Loveridge wrong about LIAT’s aircraft choice. ATR is the answer for the Caribbean.

ATR-600-Caribbean

“The ATR is an airplane that is built for fuel economy. Given that fuel is one of the 3 largest portions of an airlines annual operating budget this is a big deal.”

by PltFlyng

After reading BFP’s “What’s with LIAT’s choice for new aircraft?”, I have to conclude that Adrian Loveridge might be a tourism expert – but he is no aviation expert and that is certain. Let me give you some enlightenment on the aircraft choice here in question.

For one the Caribbean market is a small and fragmented. Experience has shown that the 50 seat size is about the largest size of aircraft that is sustainable on inter-regional routes. Even so there are many routes which will struggle to fill 50 seats. This is why for years LIAT continued to operate 3 Dash 8-100s. With 37 seats they could provide route frequency on certain lower density routes and still maintain high load factors. Any time you are flying around with empty seats its bad for business and flying around below your breakeven load factor just means that segment is losing money and being subsidised by other routes.

Herein lies the inherent problem with the Q400. It is a 70 seat aircraft.

Additionally it is also a turbo-prop designed as a light jet replacement what that means is that yes, while it is fast it achieves this speed by giving up fuel efficiency.  The break even for an industry standard Q400 on the high density low cost Indian and European markets is approximately 57 – 60% It is estimated that in the higher cost operating environment in the Caribbean the breakeven load factor for the Q400 would be in the range of 66 – 70% which means you would need to fill 45 – 47 seats approximately on average just to break even. This would prove difficult in the current travel climate in the Caribbean.

The other problem with the Q400 is airfield limitations. Some airfields in the LIAT network would require the aircraft to be weight limited for departure due to the field length or the proximity of terrain and obstacles or tailwinds. St. Vincent is not the only consideration. This means possibly cutting some services (Nevis for example) and that you would be limited as to how many passengers and bags you can carry out of some places.

For this trade off what does the Q400 bring to the table? Effectively nothing.     Continue reading

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Nation news story “totally erroneous, spin to make up for Virgin Atlantic’s disastrous Barbados cuts”

“BA Boost” is B.S.

The Nation article “BA Boost” is totally erroneous and appears to be nothing more than spin to make up for yesterday’s disastrous news that Virgin Atlantic is cutting seat capacity to Barbados by 3,000 seats a month.

‘BRITISH AIRWAYS (BA) is projecting a good winter season for its Barbados business, with more than 2000 passengers arriving here every week.’ (from The Nation article BA Boost)

The airline is in fact operating 10 flights per week using B777 aircraft with 226 seats, a TOTAL of 2,226 seats in every plane is full, a near impossibility. A previous Nation news story about a British Airways flight grounded at Grantley due to a bird strike revealed that the London-bound flight only had 100 passengers on board. That again shows how much of this current BA announcement is spin.

As the airline operated 12 flights per week last winter, today’s announcement is in fact a reduction of capacity, but the public apparently must not be told the truth: nevermind that the truth about the tourism industry is visible throughout Barbados.

Our tourism ‘leaders’ act as if we were still in those magic days when the Concordes of British Airways declared Barbados to be the number one island destination in the world – when the crowds were beating down the doors just to spend a week or two in Bim.

BA boost

BY GERCINE CARTER

BRITISH AIRWAYS (BA) is projecting a good winter season for its Barbados business, with more than 2 000 passengers arriving here every week.

The airline’s winter season operations began last month with ten weekly direct London-to-Barbados return flights and district manager Nigel Blackett said already the passenger loads were “encouraging”.

The BA aircraft has  a seating capacity of 226 and there is an expected boost in business with  a weekly air/sea exchange of cruise ship and airline passengers, starting November 16.

This will see close to 200 cruise ship passengers taking a BA flight back  to London from Barbados, while a similar number  of BA passengers  will join the cruise ship in Barbados.

… from The Nation BA Boost

Concorde over Barbados stamp image courtesy of George Wu, Taiwan, Republic of China (George has a wonderful website for aviation enthusiasts)

Further Reading

Barbados prepares to bid farewell to Concorde – 11/8/2003

Courtesy of ConcordeSST.com

With the last scheduled supersonic flight to Barbados set for August 30th, the people of this Caribbean island are preparing to bid farewell to the icon that has graced their island for nearly 15 years, and that has helped to build their very successful tourist industry. Continue reading

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Virgin Atlantic cutting capacity to Barbados – up to 3,000 seats a month gone

“Massive reduction” in Barbados seats as St. Lucia weekly flights increased from 3 to 5

Virgin Atlantic will make extensive changes to its Caribbean schedules in Fall of 2013: Barbados loses, St. Lucia wins.

The changes are being announced almost a year in advance to allow for travel planning, and reflect where Virgin Atlantic thinks the market is heading. Several of Virgin’s Barbados Boeing 747 flights are being replaced with new Airbus A330-300 aircraft, which while new carry only 50% to 70% of the passenger load of the big Boeing while burning less than half the fuel.

“Can we honestly say that Barbados is a better destination that it has ever been?”

Make no mistake, my friends: this is terrible no matter how the ‘new aircraft’ are spun and promoted. The bottom line is that one of the premier carriers from our premier market is reducing seat availability by up to 36,000 visitors a year.

Why is this happening?

It is easy to blame the worldwide economic downturn for the slowdown in our tourism economy, for tough times are taking their toll. Even those tourists who do visit are not so free and easy to spend as they used to be. Shona’s little brother is working two days less a week and happy to have the work he does.

Times are tough – but there is more to this situation than the economy. Everybody knows that our product has deteriorated. Our hotels are old, our beaches sport rubbish where they never did before. The traffic jams are worse and the development plan that is nothing more than walling off the coasts all contribute to making Bim far less desirable a vacation destination than it has ever been. Continue reading

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Filed under Aviation, Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Economy