ST. JOHN’S, Antigua CMC – The Antigua and Barbuda government says the regional airline, LIAT, will not be shifting its headquarters to Barbados even as that island’s Tourism Minister Richard Sealy has promised that additional operations of the airline will be moved to the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA).
“We anticipate, given the fact that the Barbadian taxpayers . . . are being asked to shoulder majority of the burden where LIAT is concerned, it is only natural, that as you heard only recently that LIAT is being put on a firmer [and] sounder economic footing, that there are decisions that will have to be taken with respect to LIAT that will result in increased levels of activity at this airport as far as LIAT is concerned,” Sealy said.
But Tourism Minister John Maginley, speaking at a public meeting of the ruling United Progressive Party (UPP) on Thursday night, said the cash-strapped airline had no intention of re-locating to Barbados.
“I want to say this again, LIAT is not going anywhere. Further to that, LIAT has now presented us with their hanger needs for the next 20 years.
“Now if they were building a hanger in Antigua for 20 years, it doesn’t make any sense for them to move. It does not make any sense. We are going to build a new hanger for LIAT. As you know their hanger burnt down and they were not properly insured, so they were not able to rebuild it.
“The government of Antigua and Barbuda, under the leadership of the Honourable Baldwin Spencer, has agreed to build a new hanger for LIAT, we have the financing in place and once we get the final drawings we are going to move forward”.
Sealy, who was quoted in the Barbados Today publication had stopped short of saying the airline would relocate to Bridgetown, but said it was not fair to ask the Barbados to shoulder most of the airline’s debt “and yet we don’t enjoy commensurate benefit.
“I am very happy to hear that Prime Minister Spencer doesn’t have to lay off anybody in Antigua and he doesn’t plan to lay off anyone, but if he can make that brag, certainly we are not going to simply take all the burden for the entire Caribbean and not get some of the benefits,” added Sealy.
Maginley said he intends to speak with his Barbadian counterpart on the matter.
“I am going to have to call him and we gone to have a chat because I don’t know why a member of government in Barbados is getting involved in our political issues at this time.
“But I will talk to him, but I want to assure all of you that LIAT is not leaving Antigua,” Maginley told UPP supporters.
The major shareholders of the cash-strapped airline are Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.