(St John’s, Antigua) The Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) has noted the
public comments of Chairman of the Shareholder Governments, Prime Minister Dr
Ralph Gonsalves in the October 19th 2016 Edition of the Barbados
Today Newspaper. Dr Gonsalves is
quoted as saying: “We have too many cancellations caused by illness of flight
crew….we have too many bouts of illness which results in cancellations.” We have also noted that those
statements come a mere two (2) weeks after Antigua’s Observer Newspaper issued
a Retraction of Statements purportedly made by LIAT’s Acting CEO Julie Reifer-Jones
in its October 8th 2016 Edition, where Mrs. Reifer-Jones allegedly
said: “On record we have enough cabin crew to fly LIAT’s schedule. We have a
high level of reported sickness from crew.”
LIALPA strongly refutes the statements made by PM Gonsalves and by
Acting CEO Reifer-Jones as erroneous and totally false. First of all, the action of the Acting
CEO to have the Newspaper retract the Article is because she knows without a
doubt that her statements were dishonest.
Here are the facts: LIAT
is woefully short of adequate crew to properly execute LIAT”s current flight schedule.
Over the last two (2) years,
LIAT has not employed a single pilot, even though thirty-one (31) pilots have
left the company either because of retirement or resignation. Nineteen (19) of those who have let
were trained to fly the newly acquired ATR type aircraft. Management sat on their hands while
this mass attrition of ATR pilots occurred, and did nothing to rectify the
situation, and this resulted in the company losing all of the monies it
invested in the training of these pilots.
To be specific, the cost of training an ATR Pilot is approximately EC$100,000
per pilot, therefore this amounts to a total of EC$1.9 million dollars of
training investment that has been lost.
Is this as a result of poor management? Now, after suffering such losses, and as the winter schedule
is prepared, Management in a last minute panic is employing additional crew,
but this is already too late, as it takes at least 3-4 months for a new pilot
to train before they can actually fly with passengers. So any new crew
members employed will not be able to fly during the upcoming hectic Xmas/New
Year Season. Again, those upcoming
delays and cancellations are to be laid squarely and solely at the feet of management.
The incompetence of LIAT’s Management is exposed even further, as they
continue to schedule flights even though they are aware that there is no crew
available for the scheduled flight, and it would inevitably be cancelled. This then leads to Management asking
the skeletal remaining Crew to double their workload, and to work at maximum
time with minimum rest. This
is not a feasible model and it is just a matter of time before this operation
model breaks down and flight cancellations increase even further. Flight cancellations are also occurring
because LIAT has no Reserve Coverage on a daily basis and so a single pilot in
a single island has to cover the operational model throughout the network. This is ludicrous and represents poor
planning and incompetent management.
LIALPA wants to categorically state that there is no abnormal sickness
occurring among crew members. Presently, if a single pilot gets the
flu and cannot fly, the sickness of that one (1) pilot can cause several
flights to be cancelled. What
effectively run Airline pleads on a regular basis with Pilots, to work on their
off days and personal vacation days?
After several months of being silent, and trying our utmost to go above
and beyond the call of duty, we are now bringing to the attention of the
traveling public that some Pilots have fallen ill due to due to extremely high and
unbearable cockpit temperatures, and also in part, due to the usage of
chemicals/ pesticides to address an existing roach infestation in cockpits and passenger
LIAT recorded a profit in the first half of this year, and Management
has yet to recognize that this would not have been achieved if the Pilots did
not make the sacrifice of working 10-11 hours per day, and without the company
scheduling meal breaks.
The Barbados Today article also mentioned that LIAT is expected in the
final four months of the year to project a loss of EC$9.2 million. This was totally avoidable and we
lay the blame for this squarely at the feet of Management. LIAT lost millions of dollars when it
sold its Dash 8 airplanes. When
there was a hangar fire in Antigua, records of the airplanes were destroyed and
were not backed up. Therefore, the
airplanes were depreciated and sold under value because even though LIAT spent millions
of dollars putting in new (replacement) parts in the airplanes, they could not
prove that the parts were new, nor could they prove how much flying time
(usage) the airplanes did, all due to reckless negligence in basic record keeping. No one has been held accountable to
On the matter of the projected millions of dollars in losses for LIAT,
the travelling public needs to ask LIAT’s management two (2) simple questions: 1) Has the removal of flights from
certain profitable routes led to these projected losses? 2) Are the projected losses due to
political interference in the Airline’s Destination and Flight Schedule
LIALPA as always continues to reassure the travelling public, that we are committed and dedicated to serving you at the highest professional levels. We want to avoid flight delays and especially cancellations, but we simply cannot do so, due to a shortage of crew, poor working conditions and an incompetent management team.