June 28th 2020 – I would be the last person on earth to rejoice when someone loses or is about to lose their job especially through no fault of their own. But upon reading yesterday that LIAT might be liquidated I was excited, a grin spread across my face and remained there for a long time.

You see, as far as I’m concerned LIAT (or “de TAIL airline” as I like to call it) has been nothing but a succubus on Caribbean people. LIAT when was the last time you made an operating profit, 1982? As Babardostoday.bb noted.

In the Civil Aeronautics Board Reports, volume 62 (May to July 1973) the board pointed out that prior to Court Line’s acquisition of LIAT it had suffered substantial financial losses for several years. It’s financial condition at that time reflected those losses and had accumulated a deficit including a bank overdraft and notes representing LIAT’s refinancing of it’s past indebtedness to BWIA.

Court Line guaranteed the bank overdraft and notes. And through direct advances Court Line provided LIAT with sufficient working capital. Further the board observed LIAT was expected to operate at a loss of over $1.5 million for 1972, but Court Line and LIAT said the airline could be made profitable within reasonable time.

Why is this relevant now? Well let me ask you this, (for the second time) when was the last time in the last 30 years LIAT made actual profit? Had cash in hand, assets, didn’t struggle to pay its staff. How many CEOs have tried and failed to make the airline profitable?

It’s obvious Covid-19 has a lot to do with the realization that LIAT cannot survive. It’s obvious LIAT should not have survived for this long and should have met it’s end back in 1973, but alas that ship has sailed and here we are.

Antigua & Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Brown said, “Back in 1974 when LIAT was collapsed, my understanding is that it took a day to start the operation of a new entity.”

As if to say the owners at the time had a choice. They didn’t. In June 1973 LIAT sought huge travel price increases, cut operations and dropped all jet services. By 1974 they’d lost $25 million, and in August 1974 the parent company, Court Line collapsed leaving thousands stranded in the Caribbean.

It wasn’t until November 15th 1974 LIAT reemerged as a new company LIAT owned by the governments of St Lucia, St Vincent, Grenada, St Kitts-Nevis, Dominica and Antigua.

Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados and Jamaica refused to sign on. Jah only knows what they saw coming, but I won’t speculate.

PM Brown said in his statement that forming a new entity must be public and private sector funded, I agree, but I hope to God Almighty that management is put in the hands of the private sector, run by people with integrity, ethics, and true professionals with business minds and goals, and of course there’s the need to make sure enough checks and balances are in place to ensure we do not end up with another CLICO.

At least in most jurisdictions private sector executives who run businesses funded with public money “enjoy” oversight, and people can be held accountable for mismanagement, incompetence and corruption. But the question is, when government has total control, who will hold them accountable for failure, malfeasance or good old fashioned corruption?

Brown also stated we shouldn’t run away from the name LIAT. My frien’, (in my friend Nigerian accent) you not serious, the name LIAT is and will always be synonymous with poor service, lost baggage or property on almost every trip, poorly trained or just plain rude customer service staff, missed connecting flights, refund is impossible…I could go on but most of us been through it, some all of the above or at least heard the horror stories of others.

My advice is this, if this does in fact happen, and a new company is formed, they need to stay far away from the name LIAT, in fact erase the name from the history books, pretend it never existed, strike it from the record and ban it from being used again.

No one should again, use the name LIAT as far as an airline is concerned. Starting now I’m even banning myself from mentioning that name which should no longed be mentioned.

Anyway, on a serious note; please, please, listen it’s long past the time to put this giant succubus to bed. I could be wrong but this business was meant to make money, no? A business which has enjoyed billions in tax payer funded bailouts since 1974, what did you do with that bounty? Seems to me you’ve overstayed your welcome.

But then again, what do I know? I’m just another black guy on the internet.

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1 Comment

  • Angelo Allen
    Posted 07/09/2020 15:34 0Likes

    This article must be recognized as a timely input into the LIAT / Brown scenario .
    Thanks for the historic references and lets hope that a replacement for this failed Airline will serve the needs of our Caribbean people .

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