Pilot warns LIAT second ‘meltdown’ brewing

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The head of the pilots’ union for LIAT is warning that a second “meltdown” is pending, which will result in more cancellations and delays throughout the regional network this winter season.

President of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots’ Association (LIALPA) Carl Burke said the problems that led to what has been dubbed the “summer meltdown” have not been addressed and the airline is again battling a shortage of pilots.

“If we don’t put things in place and take corrective measures to avoid the situation we had in the summer, there will be a re-occurrence,” warned Burke, referring to the numerous flight cancellations and delays that stranded thousands of customers throughout the airline’s network in July and August.

“The problems we had during the summer are still with us today. We have a problem with flights being cancelled and causing serious delays throughout the network,” Burke said.

The LIALPA president said there were cancellations this past weekend, but he did not give specifics.

Burke also said the internal probe into the summer fallout fails to ascribe blame or hold anyone accountable. For him it’s not enough, and he still wants an independent investigation.

He also urged the airline to hire more pilots, noting 12 to 15 pilots had retired in the last two years without being replaced, leaving 132 pilots to cover the airlines ATR and Dash-8 Fleets. Burke said because pilots could only fly one or the other and several remain training in France, resources are stretched.

Burke also confirmed that there is unrest with LIAT engineers that could soon result in industrial action.

LIAT shareholder governments are Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The airline is undergoing a US $100 million fleet renewal from Dash-8 to ATR aircraft.

(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)