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Thursday 19 September 2019
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Letters to the Editor

History of LIAT and Branson’s interest

THE EDITOR: While there has been much interest in the future of Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT), perhaps a review of the historical background leading to the formation of this air carrier may assist in making informed decisions regarding its future.

Were we to cast our thoughts back to the early 1960s, it would be recalled that the then British Development Division in the Caribbean (which was based in Barbados), in endeavouring to chart a way forward for the (small) islands of the Leewards and Windwards group, following the collapse of the West Indies Federation, had seen their future well-being lying predominantly in the international tourist industry.

However, it was clear that for this to be effective, connecting flights to airports with the ability to take large long-range jet aircraft were required. It was in this context, therefore, that LIAT, fitted with relatively small island-hopping aircraft as a medium connecting to the then international airports in Antigua, Barbados and Trinidad, was envisaged.

With the passage of time, international airports have since been established in Grenada, St Lucia and more recently in St Vincent, thus reducing considerably the need originally envisaged for connecting flights to the previously established international connecting destinations.

In light of the forgoing it is not surprising that one reads a report coming out of Antigua (largest government shareholder of LIAT), that Sir Richard Branson, owner of the tourist-oriented Virgin Atlantic, has expressed an interest in investing in LIAT with an expanded destination span including Florida, while not being unaware of the demands of those territories, for example the Grenadines, which would continue to be dependent on smaller equipment in aircraft for tourism.

Finally, one is inclined to enquire as to the status of Caribbean Airlines in all this. Has it lost its place as the natural preferred Caricom carrier?

ERROL OC CUPID, Tacarigua

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