LIAT (1974) ends 50 years of reliable air transport to the Caribbean, as employee asks if this is the price of progress

“The Caribbean Airline,” LIAT (1974) Ltd., left the aviation scene on
Monday night, January 22, after five decades of air-transportation
services to the region.
The carrier made the first flight of its final day of operations during
the morning hours, and passengers who boarded the aircraft at
the V.C. Bird International Airport got to be part of the historic final
flight of the popular airline.

Its final return flight was scheduled for 7:20 p.m. Monday night, at
which time a water salute honoured the carrier’s years of service.

“I feel so sad. I never thought I would see this in my lifetime,” one
veteran employee said. “Is this the price of progress? No other
airline can, and will, do for Caribbean people what LIAT has done.”

While many persons say that Monday marked the end of an era for
reliable air transportation, it paves the way for the Gaston Browne
Administration to advance its plans for the airline, rebranded “LIAT
2020 Ltd.”

After the airline had been in administration for the past three years,
the court-appointed administrator, Cleveland Seaforth, reportedly
determined that the struggling carrier should permanently cease

Hence, at the beginning of January, the Government announced that
the airline would be shutting down, placing another set of its
workers on the breadline.

A letter to staff, captioned “Cessation of Operations,” said that after
careful consideration and evaluation of the airline’s current
operations, the decision was taken to end all commercial flying
operations effective January 24, 2024, at the close of business.  
However, the staff were informed they would be made redundant
effective February 5, 2024.
The workers are being sent home empty-handed without severance
or gratuity.

However, the administrator has noted the company’s obligation to
pay them their entitlements and advised that such sums will be
confirmed “under separate cover” within 45 days.

LIAT was grounded, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in March 2020,
but resumed flights on November 1 that year, with a limited
schedule and at reduced capacity.
Over 400 LIAT staff were initially placed on the breadline in 2020,
and they are still awaiting – some four years later – the payment of
their severance and gratuities.

It is unclear how many are now being sent home. However,
collectively, the staff is owed millions of dollars.

Last year, the Gaston Browne Administration cut off negotiations
and communication with the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union,
the former employees’ bargaining agent, which refused to accept an
offer for 32 percent of their entitlements.
Prior to that, the Browne Administration had offered 50 percent,
split into cash, land, and university scholarships.