Thinking about a previous post, and Adrian Loveridge’s comment on it, I got to thinking about why would governments support LIAT. After some thinking this is what I came up with.
Antigua’s reasons for supporting LIAT are fairly obvious, the airline is probably one of the largest employers in the country, and it being based in Antigua makes their airport a hub for the northern Caribbean. If there was no LIAT there would be severe dislocation in the Antigua economy, and St. Kitts has a much nicer airport that would probably become the hub in the Northern Caribbean.
St. Vincent has no international airport, so it’s completely dependent on it’s visitors coming from somewhere close that has one. Also because it’s tourism industry is in it’s infancy it probably doesn’t have the volumes to justify a regularly scheduled service. Hence Dr. Gonsalves insistence on supporting LIAT, for him it’s continued existance is a vital strategic necessity.
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Barbados has just dropped $150 million into it’s airport to make it a hub. (And if the could get their immigration and customs to function better it could be a good hub) the presence of a connecting smaller airline based in Barbados allows them to attract large carriers to the island as they can market the island as a gateway to the wider Caribbean and not just a single island. This makes the destination more attractive to international airlines.
Of course the thing is….
How much of this tab are we prepared to pick up? If St. Lucia, Guyana, St. Kitts or Grenada can attract carriers on their own, why should they spend scarce taxpayers dollars to prop up an airline that loses money hand over fist, gives lousy service and isn’t run commercially? What do they get other than a warm fuzzy feeling about regionalism?
We can talk about all of Caricom “Having to support LIAT” when we’re asking all of them to do something that makes sense for them, and when they can feel comfortable that they aren’t pouring their money into a financial black hole with wings, until then LIAT will always struggle to justify it’s existence.