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LIAT (1974) Ltd, formally known as Leeward Islands Air Transport or LIAT, is an airline headquartered in Antigua. It operates high-frequency inter-island scheduled services serving 15  destinations in the Caribbean. The airline's main base is V.C. Bird International Airport, Antigua and Barbuda, with a base at Grantley Adams International Airport, Barbados.
|Founded||20 October 1956 (as Leeward Islands Air Transport Services)|
|Commenced operations||20 October 1974|
|Company slogan||THE Caribbean Airline|
|Headquarters||V.C. Bird International Airport|
Saint George Parish, Antigua
|Key people||Jean Holder (Chairman) Julie Reifer-Jones (CEO)|
Leeward Islands Air Transport Services was founded by the late Kittician (now Sir) Frank Delisle in Montserrat on 20 October 1956 and began flying with a single Piper Apache operating between Antigua and Montserrat. With the acquisition in 1957 of 75 percent of the airline by the larger, better known BWIA, LIAT was able to expand to other Caribbean destinations and to obtain new aircraft types, such as the Beechcraft Bonanza and de Havilland Heron. Hawker Siddeley HS 748s came in 1965, due to the airline's decision to phase out the Herons. In 1968, LIAT was operating some flights via an agreement with Eastern Air Lines to provide passenger feed at this U.S. based air carrier's hub located in San Juan, Puerto Rico and was flying "Eastern Partner" service between San Juan and Antigua, St. Kitts and St. Maarten.
LIAT was not always an all propeller aircraft airline. After Court Line obtained 75 percent of the airline in 1971, LIAT entered the jet age, using stretched British Aircraft Corporation BAC One-Eleven series 500 twin jets for their longer Caribbean routes. Smaller Britten-Norman Islander STOL (short take-off and landing) twin prop aircraft were used during this time as well. LIAT operated the stretched version of the British-manufactured BAC One-Eleven, being the series 500 model, which was comparable to McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 being flown during the late 1960s and early 1970s by a competing airline, Puerto Rico-based Caribair (Puerto Rico). The BAC One-Eleven jets were supplied to LIAT by U.K. based Court Line.
Court Line went bankrupt in August 1974, and the BAC One-Elevens were removed from the LIAT fleet. In order to keep the airline flying, the governments of 11 Caribbean nations stepped in and acquired the airline. The jets were replaced with a series of smaller types, such as the de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter STOL (short take off and landing) turboprop.
The 1980s were a decade of growth for the airline. By 1986, many daily flights were operated to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, as well as other regions that the airline had never flown to. Faster de Havilland Canada DHC-8-100 Dash 8 turboprops were acquired in order to reduce flight times systemwide.
In June 2013, LIAT received its first ATR 72 series 600 aircraft (registration V2-LIA). The airline completed its transition from the Dash 8 fleet to an all ATR fleet in 2016.
In January 2007 the airline announced an intended merger with Caribbean Star Airlines, and they entered into a commercial alliance, involving the flying of a combined schedule. All flights were marketed as LIAT, although the airlines continued to operate separately using their own air operators certificates, until after completion of the merger. The merged airline was planning to use the LIAT brand with a merged fleet which is standardised on the Bombardier Dash 8 Q300. However, in June 2007, the shareholder governments of Barbados, Antigua and St. Vincent gave the go-ahead to the Board of Directors to buy out the assets of Caribbean Star instead. LIAT purchased Caribbean Star Airlines on the 24 October 2007 and five of Caribbean Star's DHC-8 aircraft were then transferred to LIAT. As another result of the merger, LIAT changed its slogan to "LIAT, Star of the Caribbean", which was used as the slogan for a short time, and was then changed back to "The Caribbean Airline".
The airline is owned by seven Caribbean governments, with three being the major shareholders : Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda and St. Vincent and the Grenadines along with Dominica(94.7 %); other Caribbean governments, private shareholders and employees (5.3%). It has 667 employees (at December 2018). The government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, which also is the sole shareholder of another regional carrier, Caribbean Airlines, the national airline of Trinidad and Tobago, was also offered the option to be another shareholder in LIAT, but the government of Prime Minister Patrick Manning rejected the offer.
The airline is headquartered in Antigua. The Engineering and Flight Operations Department are located at the V. C. Bird International Airport in Saint George Parish, Antigua. The Corporate Headquarters which includes the call centre and customer relations departments are located at the Sealy Building on the Sir George Walter Highway. The commercial department is located in St. Michael, Barbados.
The airline is managed by a board headed by Dr. Jean Holder. The current Executive Management includes:
- Julie Reifer-Jones, Chief Executive Officer
- Rojer Inglis, Chief Financial Officer,
- Audra Walker, Chief Commercial Officer
- Ilean Ramsey, Director, Human Resources
- Alan Alexander, Director of Maintenance and Engineering
- Arthur Senhouse, Director of Flight Operations
- Diane Shurland, General Counsel
On Wednesday, March 26, 2014 the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) reported that British aviation executive, David Evans, was selected by the board of directors to become LIAT's next chief executive. Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) late Wednesday. On April 22, 2014, Evans was appointed as CEO of LIAT.
Evans' appointment comes weeks after the shareholders mandated Chairman Jean Holder to study the future of the airline for 100 days, and shareholder Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves had boasted that more than 200 people had applied for the position.
Evans unfortunately resigned on April 13, 2016 amidst a heated meeting with the board of directors, leaving LIAT yet again without a CEO.
In August 2017, Mrs. Julie Reifer-Jones was appointed CEO of the company. She is the first female CEO of the airline and currently the only female CEO of an airline in the Caribbean.
Until 2008, LIAT's services to Anguilla, Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat and St. Vincent were codeshared with Carib Aviation, which also used Antigua and Barbuda as its hub. The agreement was canceled due to Carib Aviation's discontinuation of all flights effective September 30, 2008.
LIAT also provides cargo services, with its service called Quikpak. This service provides Airport-to-Airport & Door-to-Door, customs cleared delivery service throughout the Caribbean. The delivery time is typically within one or two days, guaranteed by the LIAT staff.
LIAT would also begin all cargo services with a Dash 8–100, which was to be converted from a passenger aircraft to a full-fledged cargo aircraft. Once the new cargo service comes on stream, customers for the first time would be able to book cargo online on the company's web site. Already, there has been considerable interest by regional manufacturers, agricultural exporters and other traders in the start-up of the service.
The introduction of its new cargo service was planned for later in 2011.
Early in 2013 the airline announced plans to acquire two entirely new types of turboprop aircraft, the 48-seat ATR 42 series 600 and 68-seat ATR 72 series 600  to replace its aging fleet of Dash 8's, both purchased directly by the airline, and acquired during their merger with Caribbean Star. The introduction of these new propjets will mark the first time that LIAT has operated ATR aircraft. LIAT began accepting deliveries in mid 2013. Later in 2013 then CEO, Capt. Ian Brunton, apologised for what he described as a 'meltdown' around a re-fleeting exercise, with LIAT changing aircraft from Dash-8 types to ATR 42 and ATR 72 types. The troubles, which stranded thousands of passengers across LIAT's 1,300 miles of network, started in early August and continued for some two months while LIAT struggled with crewing both types and deliveries of the new aircraft. To compound the problems, an engine of one of the new aircraft took a week to be replaced, and one of the new aircraft was chartered to the Prime Minister of Taiwan in the middle of the debacle. The CEO blamed the numerous flight delays and cancellations on "unscheduled maintenance, crew shortages, bad weather, airport limitations, obtaining licences for operating our new ATR aircraft, Tropical Storm Chantal, strong surface winds, unfavourable weather conditions, airport limitations, and runway lights". Capt. Brunton resigned in late September, with his departure on October 1, 2013.
In addition to the above airlines, LIAT currently has Interline agreements with:
- Virgin Atlantic
- JetBlue Airways
- British Airways
- Caribbean Airlines
- Caribbean Airlines
- Air Caraibes
- Air Antilles
- Air Canada
- Surinam Airways
- Corsair International 
The airline has former codeshare agreements with:
The LIAT retired fleet includes the following aircraft:
- Beechcraft Bonanza
- de Havilland Canada Dash 8-100
- Bombardier Dash 8-300
- BAC One-Eleven - stretched series 500 aircraft (The BAC One-Eleven series 500 was the only jet aircraft type ever operated by LIAT.)
- Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander
- Britten-Norman BN-2A-III Trislander
- de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter
- de Havilland DH-114 Heron
- Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirante
- Hawker Siddeley HS 748
Accidents and incidentsEdit
- On August 23, 1959, a LIAT de Havilland DH-114 Heron 2B crashed on landing in St. Kitts. The aircraft was en route between St. Johns, Antigua and St. Kitts. After landing, it overran the runway and was damaged beyond repair. No one was seriously injured and there were no fatalities.
- LIAT Flight 319: On August 4, 1986, a LIAT de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter crashed into the Caribbean Sea. The aircraft was en route between St. Lucia and St. Vincent when it crashed due to poor weather conditions, while on approach. After a full day's search failed to find a trace of the Twin Otter, all of the 11 passengers and two crew were presumed dead.
- On December 2, 2010, LIAT flight LI362, a Bombardier Dash 8-Q300 (DHC-8-300) carrying 24 passengers, en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, made an emergency landing at the V.C. Bird International Airport in Antigua after losing a wheel from one of the main landing gear. As a precautionary measure, emergency services were placed on standby. The aircraft landed safely with no major damage or any injuries to the passengers or crew.
- On August 25, 2013, LIAT flight LI774, a Bombardier Dash 8-Q300 (DHC-8-300) carrying 43 passengers, en route from Guyana to Barbados made an emergency landing at the Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados after losing a wheel from one of the main landing gear on takeoff from Guyana. The aircraft landed safely with no major damage or any injuries to the passengers or crew.
LIAT has a mixed reputation among both locals and visitors to and from the Caribbean Islands. Their flights often operate irregularly, with inconsistent arrival and departure. Baggage is often misdirected or not loaded entirely. They are known for having very poor customer service, late departures, flights cancellation and their staff are criticised as surly and unhelpful. These problems were exacerbated with the 2010 strikes and again during the labor disputes in 2013 and 2017 – with many flights canceled and passengers stranded and unable to receive refunds. The management and head operators of the airline makes it clear that they are not responsible for any flight cancellations or stranded passengers.
The airline has greatly improved in on-time performance over the years. Following the refleeting to the ATR, the airline concentrated efforts in improving its On-Time Performance. In May 2018, the airline was ranked first in on-time arrivals in Latin America and the Caribbean for Regional airlines.
In popular cultureEdit
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- "LIAT lands safely in Barbados following main wheel failure". Caribbean360. 2013-08-26. Retrieved 2017-05-18.
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- "Several flight cancellations as strike hits LIAT". BVI News. 3 April 2017. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
- "Chaos at LIAT as pilots and management square off". Antigua Observer Newspaper. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
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