LIAT 2020 will receive a helping hand after it was announced that Nigeria’s Air Peace will acquire a majority stake in the airline.
As part of plans to jump start the NewCo formed from the ashes of LIAT (1974) Limited, Antigua and Bermuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced that the twin island country will enter into a joint venture with privately owned carrier Air Peace. Both parties will invest cash and other assets, with Air Peace acquiring a majority interest.
According to Loop Caribbean, Antigua’ PM said the aim of the airline is to provide safe and reliable air transport for passengers and cargo within the Eastern Caribbean islands, and beyond. The joint venture came to be after Antigua and Barbuda’s Foreign Minister Chet Greene initiated talks with Air Peace CEO Allen Onyema last month in Nigeria.
Prior to the pandemic, LIAT (1974) Limited was struggling to keep afloat, dragging around a US $4.4 million debt at the end of 2019. Going into 2020, it was clear that there was no hope for LIAT as various island investors were no longer willing to fork out cash to prop up the loss-making airline.
As a result, LIAT 1974 was liquidated in July 2020 and a new entity was born, called LIAT 2020. With just 3 ATR 42-600 aircraft in its fleet, the company still struggled to get by even with a cash injection of $15 million from the Antigua and Barbuda government, as it navigated the challenge pandemic waters.
Based on Lagos, Nigeria, Air Peace operates flights across Nigeria and West Africa with a fleet of 30+ aircraft including Boeing 737s, 777s, Airbus A320s and Embraer E Jets. The privately owned airline has already shown Caribbean interest, entering into talks with the government of Barbados to discuss a possible link between the island and Nigeria. It is expected that flights between the two countries may start as early as Q2 of 2023.
Now Air Peace will take on a majority share in LIAT 2020 to help build out the new airline to rebuild connectivity within the Caribbean and the wider region. It is unclear what their future plans are once the new airline is properly established, but it would not be surprisingly to see routes being potentially established to West Africa if all goes to plan.
[Featured Photo: Bradley Wint/Gate Checked]