CaribPR Wire, PORSTMOUTH, Dominica, Fri. Sept. 13, 2013: Dominica hotelier, Gregor Nassief, has issued a third letter to LIAT, this time to the shareholders of LIAT, the Hon. Prime Ministers Dr. Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda, Freundel Stuart of Barbados, Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines calling for them to “take ownership” of the airline and the crisis. The letter calls for them to “act in the interest of your citizens, your visitors and your economies” and to “break the cycle of perpetual unaccountability.” The public complaint is enclosed for publication.
September 13, 2013
Honourable Dr. Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda
Honourable Freundel Stuart of Barbados
Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica
Honourable Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines
V.C. Bird International Airport
P O Box 819
Dear Shareholder Prime Ministers:
Re: Take Ownership
My letters of August 11th and August 19th to the LIAT Board and Chairman respectively were written after LIAT’s worse crisis in its 56-year history had stretched into its third month with no clear explanation of the crisis and with no one accepting responsibility despite clear indications of management and planning errors. It was on that basis that I called for “heads to roll.” As the crisis now stretches into its fourth month (see latest list of incidents attached) the calls for transparency and accountability have grown louder but remain unanswered.
As the effective “owners” of LIAT, the final decision lies with you. You can follow the path of LIAT’s leadership and ignore the calls for transparency and accountability or you can take ownership and act in the interest of your citizens, your visitors and your economies.
Your CEO’s explanations of the crisis have included a long list of issues (unscheduled maintenance, crew shortages, bad weather, airport limitations, delays in obtaining licenses for operating the new ATR aircraft in some territories, and a dire financial situation due to failure by your governments to deliver on committed finance, difficulty in selling Dash-8 aircraft and a 10 per cent decline in revenue). He has taken no direct responsibility for the crisis and admitted to no errors, laying the blame on God and You.
In a brazen act of self-preservation and back scratching, your CEO has rejected a call from many, including the Leeward Island Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA), for an independent investigation into the crisis, choosing instead a “full post-mortem on what went wrong,” the objective of which would also be to reward staff for their “heroic duties and human service.” And those who “dropped the ball” would be identified “for counseling or better training.”
If after a crisis as deep and wide as this, your CEO is allowed to get away with blocking an independent investigation (in which he would surely be the primary target) and throwing some niceties at staff (in order to calm a revolt), then it surely explains the culture of unaccountability that has led to EC$344m in accumulated deficits at the end of 2012 (sure to grow larger in 2013 as a result of the current mess). Now add to that the gamble of EC$250m+ on the re-fleeting exercise and you end up with a half billion-dollar burden gift-wrapped in perpetual unaccountability that is now your responsibility.
Break the cycle
If no one is ever held accountable, then no matter how bad it is, it doesn’t matter, and so it just keeps getting worst.
As owners, I appeal to you to hold LIAT’s Board and Executive Team to a much higher standard of performance, one that delivers a great customer experience and a solid financial performance.
As owners, I appeal to you to reorganize and restructure the Board of Directors and Executive team and to hold them accountable to achieve the necessary objectives, giving them the autonomy and authority, free from political interference.
As owners, I appeal to you to be owners, to step up and to act in the interest of your citizens, your visitors and your economies and to break the cycle of perpetual unaccountability.
As Victor Hugo said, “All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” The idea that LIAT can be and must be an airline that is well managed and delivers a great customer experience and a solid financial performance has come. Constant disappointment, dismay and disruption must become a thing of the past. Half billion-dollar burdens on our treasuries must end.
A culture of perpetual accountability and competent leadership must begin. Take ownership, usher it in.
It is time to care. It is time for change. Heads must roll.
Owner/Director – Secret Bay
Executive Chairman – Fort Young Hotel
LIST OF INCDENTS
On August 19th, LIAT announced its service would be “boosted” by the return to service of one of its two newly acquired ATR aircraft which was grounded in Barbados for about a week due to a technical issue. On August 27th, LIAT announced that its operations would be “back to normal.” While the explanations from the CEO vary on the cause of the crisis, it continues unabated. Here is a list of incidents from August 19th onward, after the service was supposed to be significantly improved:
18 incidents in less than 3 weeks related to one island and connected to one person (the affected passengers include me and those known to me).
Regarding LIAT 565 on September 2nd mentioned above, please read the incredible story on the following page as told to me by a passenger who witnessed it all.
September 2nd. LIAT 565. Eye Witness Account.
Monday September 2nd I was to leave San Juan at 3:00 PM on LIAT 565 to Dominica to arrive at 4:30 PM. After a series of incredible incidents including the physical assault by a LIAT supervisor of a 15-year-old Dominican boy, we finally arrived to Dominica on September 4th at 2:30 AM in the morning.
Here is what I experienced.
Our flight on the 2nd was cancelled, but the other flight from San Juan to Antigua, LIAT 563, left as scheduled at 3:25 PM. Several passengers on that flight were actually going to Dominica, but via Antigua, and several passengers on our cancelled flight were going to other destinations, but via Dominica. We were told to return the following day at 11AM in order to travel to Dominica.
The following day, September 3rd, all passengers arrived as they were requested to, and waited and waited and waited. Only to see again the LIAT 563 leave to Antigua. We were told that our flight would come in a couple of hours. An unbelievable incident occurred on the flight to Antigua. We witnessed a LIAT supervisor force a paying passenger off LIAT 563 in order to give a seat to a LIAT Pilot who was simply desperate to get home. The woman was distraught. September 4th in Dominica is the day schools re-open and her three children were waiting on her back in Dominica. She explained all of this to the supervisor who simply said “Ma’m, we are taking you off this flight.” The rest of the passengers were aghast – how could LIAT pull off a passenger that had paid for her ticket in order to give a LIAT employee a free ride back home?
The awaiting passengers, now there for over 24 hours and having seen two planes destined for Antigua leave, became very upset and frustrated. A young boy from Dominica approached the LIAT supervisor, hit his hand down on the desk and began to demand answers. He had been cool for the last 24 hours, but he was now frustrated. After a verbal exchange, the LIAT supervisor slapped him. None of us could believe it. He tried to keep his cool and asked her how she could hit him. She replied that he disrespected her. The police came, and the Boy’s cousin who was present wanted to press charges (hitting a minor is illegal). Eventually, she agreed not to but demanded that the police make a report of the incident to protect her cousin in the event that LIAT challenged their version of the story.
It was now stretching into our second night, and we all feared no plane was coming. Then, apparently, the Puerto Rico authorities, viewing us as a security risk, arranged for a LIAT plane to come to get us. We boarded at 12:45AM and arrived in Dominica at 2:15 AM in the morning, 30+ hours late. The many passengers who were traveling via Dominica onto other destinations were now stuck at Melville Hall airport at 2:30 AM with nowhere to go.
I later found out the name of the LIAT supervisor was Ivette Santiago Torres. I hear heads will be rolling. Include hers, please.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Gregor Nassief is involved in the tourism business in Dominica and the technology business in Latin America. He is the Owner and Director of Secret Bay, the Executive Chairman of the Fort Young Hotel and the CEO of Tecsys Latin America.