Thursday, August 29, 2013

LIAT Bashing - what are we really asking for?

The way I see this LIAT / Caribbean travel issue is, apparently different to many…I have travelled on LIAT a good number of times – I’ve had bad delays a few times – and what I call ‘bad’ are delays that are more than 1hr or so, because, I’ve had 1hr or so delays on many airlines over time, and it’s my understanding that

  • If it’s something technical, it’d be hard to get it fixed in less than 1hr
  • If you miss your slot for taking off, (about 15mins – half hr) most times, you got to wait another slot before you can go…

I’ve also watched LIAT staff heroically handle large crowds of pissed off customers who, in many cases are berating and physically menacing the front desk staff….who, poor jabs…are not the ones responsible for the delays, lost baggage etc, but have 2,3,10 people often physically coming at them all at once

I wonder about people who demand LIAT be more efficient and stop ‘losing taxpayers money’ … what is it they want really? They want cheap flights, nice airports, and I assume, safe airports, safe planes, well paid and not overworked pilots, pleasant cabin crew, lots of choices of times to fly….well….Houston, we may have a problem with that…
  • Take-off and landing are costly … much more costly than flying the plane when it is at ‘cruising altitude’ …. I don’t know if many people have noticed, but LIAT  has to take off and land a damn heck of a lot – with sometimes just a mere 20-30 minute flight in-between
  •  Airport taxes…call me dumb, and aside from our governments not using money for what they’re supposed to now n then, but… isn’t maintaining a safe and comfortable, well-run airport…umm…costly? Shouldn’t the people that use the airport pay for it?
  • Did you know …. A plane uses more fuel the lower it flies….well, guess what? Flying the teeny-tiny hops between most of our islands, LIAT flies LOW – add that to the fuel cost of taking off so many times….taking off uses a LOT of costly fuel.
  • When LIAT did the obvious thing to improve efficiency/cost of running the airline and cut back flights so they flew less planes with 1/10th occupancy, people get mad! “Whoy! Now they not even providing flights!!!!” Well ‘DUH!!!!!’ Granted it costs more in fuel to fly a heavy (full) plane than an empty one, but the administrative costs are the same – ramp costs the same….and they put those empty, costly flights in the air ….for whose convenience again? Oh yes, the same LIAT-bashing passengers.
  • LIAT never gets to cruise at high altitudes where air is thinner and so fuel consumption (and costs) are less
  • LIAT has no long-haul routes to run at higher profit margins
I wonder how many people are aware how much subsidy Caribbean Airlines gets? What? You didn’t know they’re heavily subsidized by the Trinidad & Tobago Tax payers? Seriously? You really just thought they could snap their fingers and run cheap jus’ so? And they also have long-haul….but they still can’t even come close to making a profit. They say they are 'planning to phase it out over the next 3 years...'

We subsidize other airlines to come here….and why do we do that? Yes, for the same reasons we subsidise LIAT – because it is an economically unviable route to fly and we NEED the airlift for our economies to survive. Its not a new concept!!! Public transportation is subsidized the WORLD over OR you pay HIGH prices to travel and/or get "rationalized routes' - ie less flights, less direct stops etc – it cannot work any other way.

Now, about the ‘service’ LIAT staff provides – yes, I will agree there that there is need for better management policies that govern how situations are dealt with and there needs to be staff training on-going…noting that those COST money…but, but, but, I have to say….in comparison to the service I get all around the Caribbean, from service personnel in MUCH less stressful situations…I can’t say that I find LIAT staff all that bad! Yes, there could definitely be better protocols in place….same with most restaurants, shops, government offices…and the list would go on…and Lucians and I assume other islands…have we forgotten the ‘pleasure’ of flying with American Eagle? Regularly cancelled, regularly losing baggage, flight attendants and ground staff that treated you like a pest they wished they could just spray Baygon all over?

Really. I am so tired of the mob-attitude LIAT bashing that is going on. I am NOT saying nothing is wrong with the airline or that things have not gone horribly wrong lately, or that it couldn’t do with much improvement –but I am saying that people need to stop and think, not just a little bit – a LOT about the realities of regional travel and its inherent costs and challenges and THEN make some sound statements – perhaps even ones that give solid, not mocking foolishness, options for ways in which our governments and LIAT or any other travel provider could better balance the challenges of costs vs service for us and those who come here and travel in our region.

I for one find it hard to do that. But maybe I’m not seeing something – so, who has some good sound proposals that will help us all out? Anyone?