Steps are being taken to re-establishment regular air transport in the Eastern Caribbean following the collapse of LIAT (Antigua and Barbuda) (LI, Antigua). The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has approved a technical assistance grant to finance consultancy services which will devise urgent provisional measures to re-establish regular flights in the sub-region.

Options for a permanent solution would be considered in a subsequent intervention, the CDB said in a statement.

The support comes in response to a request from the governments of Antigua & Barbuda; Barbados; Grenada; Guyana; St. Lucia; and St. Vincent & the Grenadines for assistance in addressing the need for more airlift capacity in the region after LIAT - the main intra-island air carrier in the Eastern Caribbean - severely curtailed its services after it entered administration in Antigua and Barbuda in July 2020. LIAT currently operates 50 flights a week, a 90% drop from almost 500 flights weekly before its troubles. The significantly reduced airlift capacity has hampered the movement of goods, services and people to the detriment of tourism, trade, employment, business activity and social relations, the CDB said.

"The consultancy will develop interim solutions to alleviate the current capacity deficit and define immediate actions required of participating governments to ensure that regular inter-island air service can be restored with dispatch. The consultant will also be required to provide project management services, to support the implementation of the agreed solutions," the bank added.

"The intra-regional movement of people and goods is integral to regional cooperation and integration, and CDB has therefore placed a high priority on supporting the provision of dependable and cost-effective air transportation within the region," commented CDB vice president for operations, Isaac Solomon.

"The proposed technical assistance will provide member governments with feasible options for urgent improvement in airlift capacity and make gender responsive and socially inclusive recommendations on the nature and proposed structure of an aviation solution going forward, a costed and fully funded business plan, as well, as staffing considerations for implementation," he said.

The governments of Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines - the four major shareholders of LIAT - in August 2022 resolved to liquidate the debt-ridden airline and transfer its assets to a newco, LIAT 2020 (Antigua).

The airline continues to operate three ATR42-600s and holds an Antiguan Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) and EU Third Country Operator (TCO) authorisation for flights to French and Dutch territories in the Caribbean.