ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Friday September 15, 2017 – The losses caused by Hurricane Irma in the region don’t stop at the actual damage on the ground. Regional carrier LIAT says it will actually lose millions of dollars as a result of the Category 5 hurricane’s assault on the northern Caribbean last week.
That’s because the Antigua-based airline has been unable to make commercial flights into two of the key destinations in its network – St Maarten and Tortola, British Virgin Islands – which were devastated by the massive storm.
Chief executive officer Julie Reifer-Jones revealed during a conference call with the media on Wednesday that LIAT’s current inability to operate commercial flights in and out of those two islands means it’s likely to lose about US$4.4 million between now and the end of the year.
“Regional travel is very dependent on what’s happening in the economies of the region and of course any horrific event of this sort will impact certain territories and also the region as a whole. And that will impact regional travel and LIAT. Frankly, this is one of the complexities facing a regional airline like LIAT,” she said.
“Two years ago, it was Dominica; today, it is St Maarten and Tortola impacting our network. And based on previous experience, it takes some time before recovery takes place.”
Reifer-Jones said the airline’s commercial team was therefore now “looking at our flight schedules to determine whether there are some other opportunities for us to reposition aircraft to be able to generate some additional revenue in other areas.”
She noted that while LIAT has restored its normal flight schedule “as far as possible”, getting its customers into St Maarten and Tortola “is dependent on the authorities in those territories”.
“I know that this has been very frustrating for our customers, but we have to be guided by the conditions on the ground and the authorizations granted by the authorities,” the airline boss said.
LIAT had relocated aircraft and some of its staff to Barbados over the last week, but between Tuesday and Wednesday, they all returned to Antigua.