Caribbean regional airline LIAT, currently in administration, may return to operations as early as November 2020, according to Antigua’s Information Minister Melford Nicholas.
However, he did not commit to a firm date for its relaunch.
“It’s likely to happen in the new month. I would not want to hazard a date,” he told newspaper Antigua Observer. “There are still operational issues that I imagine they are going to be working on, but from the report that was shared with us by the Prime Minister [Gaston Browne – Ed.], the conditions are going to be in place for LIAT to take to the skies in the new month [November].”
Owned by seven Caribbean governments, LIAT suspended its operations in March 2020 after many Caribbean islands shut down their airports as part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.
Facing increased debt and the economic impact from the pandemic, LIAT in July received a stay from liquidation when the government of Antigua and Barbuda secured an order for its administration. The airline owed creditors in excess of EC $100 million (US $27 million).
Its restructuring plan requires a reinvestment of EC $108 million (US $39.9 million), with the Antigua and Barbuda government prepared to underwrite up to 50 per cent of the required recapitalisation. The remaining EC $54 million (US $19.9 million) is to be raised from the private and public sectors.
As part of the process, the governments of Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines have agreed to sell their shares to Antigua.
In August, Browne reported interest from other regional airlines and governments, as well as an unnamed entity from Africa. At the same time, the airline’s administrator temporarily laid off about a quarter of its remaining 166 employees.
Since the airline grounded its flights, several other regional operators have moved to fill the market gap, including One Caribbean (St. Vincent and the Grenadines), interCaribbean Airways (Turks and Caicos Islands), and Air Antilles (Guadeloupe).
LIAT forms part of the Caribsky Alliance, a strategic partnership with Windward Islands Airways International Winair and Air Antilles.
Before going into administration, LIAT used to operate five ATR 42-600s and five ATR 72-600s on high-frequency inter-island scheduled services to 15 destinations in the Caribbean.