ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Antigua-based LIAT is reporting a significant boost in its cargo business since introducing a dedicated plane for freight service a year ago.
“As far as cargo is concerned I was hoping that I could have given LIAT a birthday present by announcing that we would have moved a million pounds on our dedicated freighter for its birthday from the time the service started with a soft launch in Dominica in October last year,” Director of Cargo Wilbur Edwards said.
“We’ve had significant growth in cargo. As far as the revenue is concerned, cargo revenue of course, it has grown by over 50 per cent,” Edwards said.
In fact, as of Friday the airline has transported 993,000 lbs of cargo on its dedicated freighter service. This is in addition to freight moved on its regular passenger flights.
But while this may seem encouraging or even impressive, the bulk of cargo is still moved on the airline’s regular passenger service. At present, for every one pound of cargo moved on the dedicated freight service the airline moves 1.5 lbs on passenger planes.
The growth in LIAT’s cargo’s business was despite hurricane damage in St Lucia and St Vincent – two of the airline’s major markets for cargo.
“We have had other shocks in the network so what we did, we grouped our freighter, our network and we expand as far north as the Dominican Republic. We launched in March our service from Santo Domingo into St Maarten and that’s doing well. We have a weekly service moving a tremendous amount of perishables – fruits and vegetables – from Santo Domingo to St Maarten and also other shipments into Antigua and further into our network,” Edwards explained.
The cargo chief said the airline’s next initiative is to launch a San Juan service. The airline has already been cleared by Puerto Rican authorities for this service and the plans to start by American Thanksgiving in late November. Edwards said the new arrangement will give people around the region an opportunity to shop extensively in San Juan and check extra bags on the cargo service.
As an incentive, the airline plans to offer a 50 per cent discount on freight charges for St Maarten shoppers.
In recent years LIAT has struggled to turn a profit. The success with the service may be the wild card that could pull the airline out of its financial slump.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)