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St. Lucia Backs Wooing Other Airlines To Region

THE St. Lucia government says it is undertaking initiatives to encourage an open sky policy and introduce competition.

“Our government is in discussion with Seaborne Airlines with the hope of attracting a Puerto Rico flight here. We are also having discussions with Caribbean Airlines,” said Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, a critic of the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT.

Chastanet, a former tourism and aviation minister, pointed to the need to address what he described as the Civil Aviation Authority problem in the sub-regional Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to ensure that investors are treated fairly.

“The Authority needs to do what it is supposed to do and act as a regulatory agency as it pertains to the safety of the travelling public and not be involved in the commercial aspect of civil aviation,” he said.

In July, Chastanet announced that St. Lucia would not provide any financial support to the regional airline until it is restructured.

LIAT is owned by the shareholder governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Last week, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said Kingstown would not give financial support to the regional carrier until it improves its service to the island.

Similar threats had been made earlier by the Dominica government, while the St. Kitts-Nevis and Grenada governments have complained also at the shoddy service being offered to their territories by the Antigua-based carrier.

At the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) which ended in Barbados over the weekend, regional tourism ministers were urged to resolve the problems related to inter-regional travel.

Aviation experts addressing the conference said opening the market to other carriers would benefit the entire region and help reduce the cost and increase travel across the region.

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