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Launch of New LIAT Delayed Pending Approval of Air Operator Certificates

The exit of LIAT 1974 will create a temporary void in regional travel in the Eastern Caribbean until LIAT 2020 materialises.

Ambassador Daven Joseph, the Development Commissioner heading negotiations for LIAT 2020, said the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and Air Peace are just weeks away from launching the newest dispensation of the Leeward Island Air Transport (LIAT).

But hurdles remain as the acquisition of Air Operator Certificates (AOC) is yet to be finalized by the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCA).

“In order to get that air operation certificate you have to have an aircraft,” he said, adding that the aircraft must be one recognised as certifiable by the Authority. 

Negotiations to acquire the three aircrafts operated by old LIAT began last week, according to the ambassador. He told Twin Island Media it came by way of a letter from the Government of Barbados – one of four shareholders in LIAT 1974 Limited.  

“We have currently reached that stage, everyone is on board and we’re hoping that within weeks [there will be] the agreement between the Government of Antigua & Barbuda and the other shareholders and CDB,” he said. 

He said the shareholders have agreed for LIAT 2020 owners to purchase the ATR 42 aircraft and are now working out the modalities of that arrangement and whether they will dry lease or acquire ownership of those planes.

Upon reaching an agreement, the court-appointed administrator for LIAT 1974 will review the deal and seek court approval for the assets’ transfer to the new entity. Subsequently, the ECCA will conduct inspections, which will bring the new shareholders a step closer to finalising its operations. 

As the exit of LIAT 1974 on January 24 approaches, Ambassador Joseph highlighted plans to utilize the interim period for recruiting staff for LIAT 2020. A special committee will be formed to acquire the AOC, and a skeletal staff will be hired to demonstrate the carrier’s operational readiness.

The recruitment process for crew members and additional staff is expected to occur shortly after, with the expectation that flights could commence by the end of February. In the worst-case scenario, the launch might be delayed until mid-March, Ambassador Joseph noted.

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Majority shareholder Air Peace is expected to add two E145s with a passenger capacity of 50 passengers to the new fleet. A third aircraft, the Ambassador said, will also be in use at the start of operations to prevent any delays. The aircraft, he said, are currently under maintenance and are undergoing aesthetic changes to include a mural of the flag of Antigua and Barbuda on the aircraft. 

Meanwhile, two of the three aircrafts that Antigua and Barbuda is attempting to acquire from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and contribute as part of its capital are currently being repaired with an estimated timeline of July and November.

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