Impact on LIAT
Naturally, this is a very significant and catastrophic event for the region. We are very fortunate that Antigua, LIAT's home base, was not seriously damaged but as you know Barbuda was devastated. As Prime Minister Gaston Browne indicated 95% of the homes in Barbuda were damaged.
In addition, St Maarten and Tortola also were severely impacted by the hurricane and as a regional airline, we extend our sympathy and solidarity to the people of the affected territories and we are doing whatever we can to assist in the relief efforts.
I am happy to report that LIAT's team across the network has been accounted for and except for St Maarten and Tortola, we have reports of only minimal damage.
The Caribbean generally is very vulnerable to hurricanes, storms and tropical depressions every year. As our operations span from the north to the south of the Caribbean, we tend to be impacted frequently. In fact, LIAT has had to make adjustments to its operations, including canceling flights, as a result of severe weather conditions 5 times already this hurricane season and the season is not yet over.
In the case of Hurricane Irma and subsequently Jose, our operational team tracked the hurricane well in advance and determined that, given the expected strength of the hurricane, we should shift our operations to minimize the risk to our crews and physical assets. As a consequence, we took a decision to shift certain aspects of our operations and many employees have been operating from Barbados over the last week. I am very appreciative of the effort of our teams, many of whom left their families in Antigua while others worked exceptionally long hours, all to ensure that we could continue our operations as much as possible.
Based on the track of the storm, LIAT's operations in the south continued with minimal disruptions but in the north, activity north of Dominica was suspended during the passage of the hurricane and until the all clear was given. During the period of the hurricane, on an average day, we canceled as many as 33 flights mainly in the north.
We worked hard to keep our passengers informed of LIAT's operations throughout this period by way of our website, Facebook as well as through official press releases and the public has been very appreciative of our efforts.
As a consequence of the hurricane, we also experienced communications and some infrastructure failures in Antigua however; this has now been fully restored.
Regional travel is very dependent on the state of the economies of the region. Events like this always have a negative impact on the countries affected and on growth prospects for the region as a whole. This affects the demand for regional travel. This is one of the complexities facing a regional airline like LIAT. Two years ago it was Dominica.
Based on previous experience in the region, it will take some time before there is recovery in St Maarten and Tortola and these are key destinations in our network. At this time we assess that Hurricane Irma will have a negative impact on LIAT of EC$6 M through to the end of the year. Our Commercial Team will therefore be carefully re-examining our schedule to determine whether there are other opportunities which can be explored to assist in minimizing the negative impact on our revenues.
We received permission to conduct a relief flight into Tortola and LIAT assisted CDEMA personnel to go in to make their preliminary assessment. Our own teams were also able to assess the situation on the ground at that time.
Our approach to the relief efforts is to work with the Disaster Management Teams such as CEDEMA and the Red Cross to ensure that any efforts are directed towards those in need. So apart from some direct assistance to our Ground Handlers in St Maarten and Tortola we have been assisting through the official agencies.
We have initiated an internal drive amongst LIAT's staff across the network to assist the affected territories.
In addition, other airlines are also impacted by these events and we try to assist whenever we can. For example, we transported 115 passengers on behalf of British Airways, transporting these passengers from Antigua and St Kitts to Barbados.
Current Status of LIAT’s Operations
We have restored our normal flight schedule as far as possible. However, we are unable to operate commercially into St Maarten and Tortola at this moment. This is dependent on the authorities in those territories. I know that this has been very frustrating for our customers but we have to be guided by the conditions on the ground and the authorizations granted by the
authorities. We advise any persons with bookings routed via St Maarten or Tortola to contact our call center and we will determine how we can assist.
Our team conducted a relief flight to St Maarten today and they will be conducting a full assessment.
We now have permission to operate some relief flights into Tortola and St Maarten and we hope to be able to conduct those flights in the coming days to assist in the relief efforts and to bring persons out.
The intensity of this hurricane and the extent of its impact has been a learning experience for the company and we will be reviewing our operations more critically in several areas to ensure that the company can better cope with occurrences like this.
LIAT Press Release