As concern intensifies over the future of LIAT (LI, Antigua), governments in the region have turned to the European Investment Bank (EIB) for financial assistance to ensure the cash-strapped pan-Caribbean airline continues operations.

Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, which is one of four major shareholders in the Antigua-based airline, told Caricom media that she was in discussions with the European Union lender to provide support for the “regional transportation sector”, though she did not name the carrier.

During a recent visit to Canada and the United States, she said, she met EIB Senior Vice President Alexander Stubb, who expressed a willingness to assist.

LIAT Chief Executive Officer Julie Reifer-Jones has assured that the airline will continue to maintain its full flight schedule, despite a patchy response by Caribbean states to follow up on pledges to provide emergency funding.

In March, the five biggest benefactors of its services, Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, St Vincent & the Grenadines, and Grenada tentatively agreed to contribute a combined total of USD5.4 million. All of these, bar Grenada, are the carrier's four major shareholders.

So far, however, only Grenada is said to have responded favourably, pumping XCD1 million East Caribbean dollars (USD370,000) into the emergency fund for the airline, Ralph Gonsalves, the Vincentian Prime Minister and chairman of the LIAT Shareholders Government Group, told the Grenada Broadcasting Network.

Reifer-Jones has sought to allay fears that LIAT is on the verge of bankruptcy, despite Gonsalves declaring that its closure is imminent.

The airline currently operates five ATR72-600s (all leased) and five ATR42-600s (two leased) to make 491 weekly flights across 15 destinations, according to the ch-aviation capacity module. It was dealt a severe blow by hurricanes Irma and Maria two years ago, which forced the cancellation of services or reduced frequencies for months.

Passenger figures plummeted from 1.2 million annually in the years before the disasters to 730,000 in 2018, Caribbean Development Bank President Warren Smith said in February when presenting a CDB-funded study of the carrier.