Somewhat in defence of LIAT and the increasingly stinging public criticisms of late:
I must admit that I have been one to publicly lambaste LIAT some years ago for messing up my precious vacation time with my girls and my letter to the media solicited a response from the then CEO and an interesting debate on an online news site in the British Virgin Islands where I live.
It obviously did not help to improve the situation, it seems. That makes me wonder about the current trending in the media and on social networks. What is the objective and will this be of any good? Are we just venting or do we really want to help to make things better?
It is so easy to be critical once you are directly affected by a delayed or cancelled flight, because of course you simply don’t care at the time what the airline’s issue is. You just know that you paid for a service and you are being short changed. You only care that you are missing a connecting flight, you are wasting time in an airport in another island other than your intended destination. You simply do not care about the challenges the airline is dealing with, at all! It’s not that you can help anyway! And they are the ones in business to get you where you want to go!
I do not come on here trying to (totally) defend LIAT at all, but one has to give them some credit for being in business for over, what, 50 years?, through tough economic times and an overwhelming and burgeoning lack of public support. One ought to give them some credit for staying in the air and trying to improve their fleet and create a better flying experience for their valued customers – We the People.
Just think about it. It cannot be an inexpensive venture to operate. How often do we fly? How much do we or should we pay to fly? What are the operational expenses of LIAT versus revenue? How many Caribbean governments fulfill their obligations to subsidize the airline of their people to ensure that it has proper resources – management, staff and equipment?
You hardly see a complementary letter when LIAT gets us safely to our destination and on time, or maybe even a few minutes or an hour or two late..but we get there anyway. How many of us later cherish the moments when we spend hours in an airport or particular island and had the opportunity to meet people who became good friends or valuable business partners? How many of us stop to consider how thankful we should be that LIAT took the extra precaution to delay a flight to allow engineers to double check or remedy a fault to ensure the safety of its passengers?
Perhaps LIAT should cease to operate then and see how we would get around, since the majority of people seem to think they are a waste of time so to speak! I mean, there are other smaller airlines in the region that perhaps can pick up the slack. Do we want to try that?
I hasten to add: This is not to suggest that LIAT should not buckle up and do better! For after all, they must have, should have mastered the art of the business some, by now.
Then again, they are changing CEO’s very often and this might suggest a managerial problem indeed. There is always some battle with the pilots, which suggests that all is not well with the staff and we all know how unproductive a disillusioned staff can be.
I am not sure the workers are the problem, for I know a pilot who has been with them for almost if not over 20 years. I can also probably attest to the fact that their current PR Manager has the ability to do more proactive public relations and damage control, if he perhaps were allowed to put his training to better use.
I myself did marketing with a leading telecoms company in the region for five years and know that no matter how good you are in the field and however much you suggest and wish and propose and strongly recommend, you can hardly influence the decisions of the executives who seem to be on a different plateau. You are basically a pawn!
There is really a lot or nothing to be said (depends on how you look at it of course), about frustrated employees who seem indifferent when they are confronted by frustrated passengers. The agents really cannot tell you anything if they don’t know anything! The level of customer service training needed for this is bar none!
It sure seems to me that if LIAT is in the business of airline travel, that they must be able to do better though, but who am I to be so judgmental and damning? A paying customer who uses the airline once every month, or three or six or 12?
Is there not a Richard Branson or a Gordon Butch Stewart or a Denis O’Brien or a consortium of regional or even international businessmen or better yet businesswomen or politicians, who can come to the rescue of the Eastern Caribbean and help to ease our traveling woes?
What will it take? How much more, how much longer will we have to suffer, how many more delays, cancellations, rude and seemingly unsympathetic agents do we have to put up with? How do we deal with the spin off negative effects that this situation creates for our vital tourism industry? What do we do?
The geography of our islands demands a solution.
We have a wealth of experience, knowledge and business acumen, not to mention that we have some rich people, among us in the Caribbean and the diaspora. Can we not capitalize on this in this case? Will we sit idly by and watch LIAT sink into oblivion and then say, ‘we should have…’?
Again, who am I? Just a journalist, just a Caribbean woman (born in Montserrat where LIAT started), just a LIAT customer (who hasn’t flown LIAT in years because I can’t afford it), just a protagonist wishing and hoping and praying that for once, again as we did with the establishment of CARICOM, and the OECS and yes with LIAT, we can recognize the strength in numbers and unity and cooperation and collaborations and mergers and fix LIAT!