Letters & Opinion

Shareholders LIAT’s Only Saviour


LIAT is in a mess, and – whether the shareholders like it or not – it has been in a mess for more than four decades, and at huge taxpayer expense. What is the solution? It is not political, that’s for sure. And it is not any of the wild solutions found in “Letters to the Editor” or social media, either.

LIAT is a highly technical resource which REQUIRES licensed and experienced professionals to run it, not just any random or politically connected person who is willing to “see what they can do” or who can beg someone to ”try a thing”.

FACT: The only saviour of LIAT can be the shareholders themselves. In my experience the Prime Ministers listen to nobody, and I cannot believe their “advisors” are suggesting these courses of action.

Those Prime Minister owners of the airline need to put personal ego and island politics aside, face the stark reality and do what should have been done decades ago… treat LIAT as an arms-length Corporation, get it OFF their own personal desks, and hand it over to the professionals.

As owner representatives the shareholders should ONLY set the over-all goals of the airline. If run properly and professionally, I believe the various other EC countries would reconsider taking shares of LIAT, but they WILL NOT – and I would strongly suggest they DO NOT – just throw more taxpayer money into the deep and wide money pity that is and has been LIAT for more than 50 years, regardless of the demands and threats from the shareholder Chairman.

At the next level down, the current Board should be cleared entirely, replaced with properly qualified and experienced respected regionals appointed as Directors who are as intimate with aviation as humanly possible.

It is reasonable to assume that this new Board would then find, hire and appoint properly qualified and experienced respected aviation professionals – preferably regionals – to the level below them who would run the airline at a profit, or at the very least to break even. Problem solved.

CHANGE is the operative word. Without change, in its current form LIAT will always be a global joke.

LIAT’s shareholders do not now demand professionalism and quality but political obedience and mediocrity, they continue to send political appointee hacks to serve in Board and management who know virtually nothing about how to run an airline, and themselves continue to micromanage from afar a fast-changing resource in a technical field and discipline they themselves know nothing about.

My advice – if the shareholders want to save LIAT – is for them to get OUT of the Board Room and management suite, and to REPLACE the Board with qualified people who know the difference between a debit and a credit, propwashand slipstream, aileron and elevator, rivet and tri-wing. Such people are invariable straightforward and CANNOT be fooled, brambled, jacked up or played, and who would not tolerate for even a week the ridiculous nonsense that has passed for “management” at LIAT for the last many decades.

And such change would include the authority to CHANGE the airline to any specific form which is suited to the region, the climate, the airfields, the conditions and the people.

Globally, executive managers are continually judged by performance, and have no tenure. That is, if they screw up or do not perform, their resignation is demanded by the Board and they are replaced. Same for Board members… if a Chairman cannot produce the desired results from the management under his control and he does not replace them to achieve the set targets, he goes out the door too.

Not so in the Caribbean, apparently. Decade after decade the Board and executive management plod their way through hundred million loss after meltdown after disaster after catastrophe, and life just returns to “normal”. Nobody gets blamed, nobody goes home, nobody is liable in any way.

And, by the way, the taxpayers who foot the entire bill for all this fooling around are told they are not entitled to see any of the accounts.

Get this straight: Politicians or not, the way real businesses work is that shareholders set the grand overall future target. Boards are normally made up of professional, knowledgeable people who have the ability to produce the overall plan to reach that future target, and executive management executes that plan as professionals – how they get there is their business.

And if they cannot perform – or they perform badly – THEY ARE REPLACED.

Without such changes made from the very top of LIAT – and they can still happen, despite all the noise and thunder – LIAT is doomed, and I forecast will not last much longer.

Surely, at this point we have all had and seen enough…

If the shareholders of LIAT refuse to get serious and make changes, I beg, on behalf of the poor struggling employees and passengers, SHUT IT DOWN. This sounds drastic, but if given notice of a shutdown people can make plans for their lives and their travel, entrepreneurs can see a way towards starting an airline to serve their country, and life can go on.

The alternative is for everyone to arrive at all of the airports across the network and find the LIAT offices chained shut by the bailiffs. Because no business will wait forever for payment, LIAT cannot pay their bills, and no matter how much it is owned by countries it is still governed by the laws of those countries.

James “Jim” Lynch
Caribbean Aviation Consultant

1 Comment

  1. Well said Jim, say it like it is, mediocrity at it’s best for years. Dirty politics at work.

    Let God be praised!

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