LIAT, Caribbean Airlines work towards one airline

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St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has revealed more of plans by Antigua-based airline LIAT and Trinidad and Tobago’s national carrier Caribbean Airlines (CAL) to work towards further co-operation.

He told the parliament in his country that the intention is for there to be one airline with an international division and a regional division.

However, Gonsalves added, “Before we get to the question of one airline, there are lots of areas for functional co-operation between LIAT and CAL that we are pursuing.”

He made the disclosure when he updated his country about a LIAT shareholders meeting held in Barbados earlier this month.

The regional carrier issued a statement last week, a few days after the meeting, indicating that top officials from CAL held discussions with the top brass of LIAT.

It said the talks ended with agreement between the parties to put measures in place immediately for further direct talks between the management of both airlines.

Meantime, LIAT yesterday announced that it has set a new target date of March 1, 2010 for the introduction of its cargo service, four months later than initially scheduled.

But even before it begins, the airline said in a statement, “There is already considerable interest by regional manufacturers, agricultural exporters and other traders in the start-up of the service.”

LIAT explained that it had been forced to push back the launch because of the late delivery of one its aircraft which had been sent to Canada for a maintenance check.

Since late last year, the company has been in the process of converting one of its three Dash 8 (100) aircraft into a full-fledged freighter.

The plane was expected to be back by last November for the planned December 2009 start-up.

LIAT said it is still awaiting a firm date for its return, but indications are that the aircraft should be available by the middle of next month.

Once it is delivered, final approval will be required by Transport Canada and the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority.

“Over the past several months, LIAT has been training cargo staff in preparation for the start-up of the cargo service. New cargo software programming has also been installed and is being initiated throughout the LIAT network,” the LIAT statement said.

“LIAT views this as a very important project which realises the long-standing wish of the Caribbean people for an indigenous air freighter service as well as being central to the airline’s efforts to maintain itself as a viable carrier serving the people of the Eastern Caribbean,” it added.

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