Antigua and Barbuda has allocated an estimated XCD30 million East Caribbean dollars (USD11.1 million) from its 2024 budget to breathe life into LIAT 2020 Ltd, the newco of beleaguered Caribbean carrier LIAT 1974 Ltd, dba LIAT (Antigua and Barbuda) (LI, Antigua), Prime Minister Gaston Browne has declared.

“Despite hurdles in 2023 including unserviceable aircraft, unresolved issues for former workers, financial constraints, staff attrition, and disruptions caused by the hurricane season, LIAT 1974 Ltd operated a limited schedule ensuring vital connectivity across destinations with 167 dedicated staff,” he told legislators on December 15 about the existing airline, as quoted by the Caribbean Media Corporation.

Delivering the XCD1.3 billion (USD481 million) national budget to Parliament, Browne said that the airline, which has been under court-appointed administration since July 2020, “has long been an essential thread in the fabric of Caribbean connectivity.”

The shareholders of the cash-strapped carrier are the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Besides Antigua, Bridgetown in Barbados, Dominica Melville Hall, and St. Vincent Argyle International, LIAT also serves Basseterre in St. Kitts & Nevis, Grenada on the island of Grenada, St. Lucia Vigie in St. Lucia, St. Maarten on Sint Maarten (the Dutch part of the island), and Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, according to ch-aviation capacities data.

Browne said that following talks, several regional governments had expressed interest in partnering with Antigua and Barbuda to revive LIAT for the benefit of the region. The Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank will play a role in cementing agreement between the governments, he added, and this will set the stage for finalising a deal with Air Peace (P4, Lagos), “so that LIAT 2020 can begin operations, thereby securing a promising future for regional travel.”

News reports emerged in late April that Air Peace was ready to acquire a majority stake in the LIAT newco, following an agreement with the government of Antigua and Barbuda to form a joint venture.

The Antiguan government will spend XCD30 million to “ensure LIAT 2020 Ltd has all the aircraft needed and the appropriate maintenance and operational arrangements are in place for the safe, reliable, and efficient delivery of service to the people of the region,” Browne concluded.