ROSEAU, Dominica– Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit is urging the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, to improve its services to passengers saying “there must be a greater sense of humanism” in the way the airline conducts its operations.
Skerrit, speaking on the state-owned DBS radio, was commenting on the decision by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines government not to pump additional funds into the airline until it improves its services to the island.
The main shareholder governments of the Antigua-based airline are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Last week, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves held talks with a LIAT management team, headed by the acting Chief Executive Officer, Julie Reifer-Jones, two weeks after his administration wrote the airline demanding talks over what it described as its poor service.
The talks in Kingstown last Wednesday were aimed at resolving “LIAT’s deteriorating service experienced by Vincentians” and in a statement afterwards, Gonsalves highlighted a number of challenges, including the lack of information on delays and cancellation of flights to the travelling public.
Prime Minister Skerrit said Gonsalves has been at the forefront pioneering the support for LIAT over the last 12 years.
“I believe all of us in the Caribbean should have greatest admiration and gratitude for the prime minister of St. Vincent for his efforts. But this is a challenge which LIAT and the Caribbean have been confronted with, the issue of service”
Skerrit said while passengers could accept there could be a delay or even cancellations of flights “but we have to show greater regard and respect to the consumer….
“It is not because, well, that’s the only flight you could get between Barbados and Dominica or between Antigua and Dominica or between St. Vincent and Barbados one should just say, you can’t do without us and treat you the way however they wish.
“It is a service. People are not flying on LIAT for free. We are paying. Every one of us who travel on LIAT pay and I daresay a substantial fee for this, you know. So they have to respect the consumer, the customers. They have to show greater empathy to them when flights are cancelled or delayed. There must be a greater sense of humanism in the way they do things…”.
Skerrit acknowledged that LIAT is “important to all of us and therefore they must recognise that they have a greater responsibility”.
Earlier this week, St. Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said his administration is undertaking initiatives to encourage an open sky policy and introduce competition.
“Our government is in discussion with Seaborne Airlines with the hope of attracting a Puerto Rico flight here. We are also having discussions with Caribbean Airlines,” said Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, a critic of the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT.