Antigua and Barbuda has announced the planned establishment of a new airline, Antigua Airways (Antigua), to operate direct flights from West Africa to the Caribbean country by the end of this year.

The announcement was made in Cabinet notes on July 20, indicating the airline would be financed by an unidentified group of wealthy African investors who wished to open up opportunities between Africa and the Eastern Caribbean. A commercial agreement would be sought with cash-strapped LIAT (Antigua and Barbuda) (in administration) to feed connections to destinations north and south of Antigua and Barbuda.

The government has already signed a memorandum agreement with the Nigerian investors, Prime Minster Gaston Browne revealed during his weekly radio show on Point FM99.1 radio. "We have signed it already and have sent it off to them, and they should sign and return it just next week," he said on July 23.

Browne was confident the investors had the means to establish the airline. "They have indicated that within a matter of a few months, maybe later this year, they should be able to establish the airline. I know they have the resources. There is no doubt about it," he said.

"It's a matter of time before we establish air links between the Caribbean and Africa. It will happen. The demand will continue to grow. I have no doubt it will happen," he said.

"The Cabinet had the opportunity to discuss moving forward negotiations for a new airline to be named Antigua Airways once such name is available and it will hopefully be permitted to operate flights from West Africa directly to Antigua," Agriculture Minister Samantha Marsha explained at a weekly Cabinet news conference on July 21. Marshal was standing in for Information Minister Melford Nicholas, reported Dominica News.

"Antigua and Barbuda is excited about such opportunities. We see this as an opportunity for great expansion and growth within the Eastern Caribbean. We can no longer limit ourselves to the traditional jurisdictions, and we must open up opportunities by allowing us to consider such alternative options," Marsha said.

The news was met with scepticism by the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP), with spokesman Damani Tabor calling it a "pie-in-the-sky" promise. He pointed to failed promises of direct flights from Nigeria by Air Peace (P4, Lagos) and promised investments in an African safari-themed hotel.

He also pointed to abandoned plans for Barbuda Airways (Barbuda Codrington), a proposed joint venture between the government of Antigua and Barbuda and Caribbean Helicopters (Antigua), which had been mooted for connections between Antigua and Barbuda.

With LIAT in administration since 2020, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states have sought to find a solution to improve regional air access, suggesting either a new regional air carrier or reviving LIAT. As reported, LIAT is primarily funded by the governments of Barbados (the main shareholder) and Antigua & Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica, but the shareholders are not able to agree on how to settle its outstanding debts.