Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Never-Ending Saga of LIAT Airlines

A LIAT Airlines plane at the San Juan Puerto Rico airport in its most familiar pose - late

Several recent news articles and opinion pieces in the Miami-based magazine Caribbean Journal have focused on the never ending saga of LIAT Airlines.  The news articles and opinion pieces have largely focused on how to fix the mortally wounded airline.  Not one of those news articles or opinion pieces has addressed what really needs to happen to LIAT. After reading the latest op-ed piece as it appeared in today's Caribbean Journal I decided it was time to chime in with my own 2 cents on what, next to Bahamasair, is arguably the most pathetic airline in the western hemisphere.

My letter to the editor of the Caribbean Journal written today follows verbatim:

Caribbean Journal Magazine
Miami, Florida

Dear Editor

Regular news articles and opinion pieces in the Caribbean Journal regarding the hapless managment of the hapless airline known as LIAT have all failed to consider one important solution to the issue.  Kill the airline by hitting the reset button and start over fresh. Insanity is defined as "repeating the same action expecting different results."  Changing the CEO or bringing in consultants or whatever other solution is suggested will be as effective as putting a band-aid on a severed artery - no matter how hard you try it will run out of blood.  LIAT's aorta was severed years ago and more band-aids wont fix the problem.  Stop the insanity and start over.

I first flew LIAT in 1989 on a flight from Antigua to Montserrat.  My scheduled departure time was 8:00 a.m.; we finally lifted off from V.C. Byrd International airport at 6:00 p.m.   My database shows that I have flown on 44 LIAT segments in the intervening years.  Not ONCE have I been on a flight that was anywhere near on time.  My last flight, a year ago, was between Antigua and Tortola.  After hearing the now-standard refrain "We have a slight problem ladies and gentlemen" we were finally airborne one hour late.  Climbing out of Antigua the pilot gave the now standard apology for tardiness and then added "At least its nice to be close to on-time once in awhile."  |

Ah, excuse me, LIAT, but its not nice to be close to on-time. What is nice is being on-time.  However with a pilot attitude such as that of the one on my Tortola flight is it any wonder that the airline, its structure, its management, and its attitude are horrible and show zero signs of improvement.

Rather than continuing to put band-aids on the severed artery known as LIAT just end it.  Put it out of its own self-inflicted misery.  There are real airlines operating in the Caribbean that are cognizant of customer satisfaction and traveler needs.  Right now JetBlue is expanding its operations in the Caribbean. Perhaps JetBlue could be cajoled into further expansion to pick up some of the more important and lucrative routes that LIAT has fumbled.  Sir Richard Branson has managed his Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia and Virgin America airlines to the point of them being excellent examples of how an airline should be run. Perhaps Sir Richard might be interested in establishing Virgin Caribbean Airlines and doing it right.

Reinventing an entity like LIAT that for at least 25 years has shown zero interest in or potential for fixing its own problems is counterporductive.  Please LIAT management - hit your own reset button. Sell the joke you call an airline for parts if necessary and allow someone who actually knows what they are doing run a real airline that will address the needs of the Caribbean.  Long ago I was told that LIAT was the acronym for "Leave Island Any Time."  Perhaps now is the time for LIAT to leave the islands also.