Friday 21 September, 2018

Travellers asked to have confidence as LIAT undergoes transformation

Julie Reifer-Jones, CEO, LIAT

Julie Reifer-Jones, CEO, LIAT

Caribbean travellers are being asked to have confidence in regional carrier LIAT as the airline seeks to address issues that have tarnished its reputation for years.

Under Chief Executive Officer Julie Reifer-Jones, on-time performance, customer service and baggage issues are set to improve.

As a matter of fact, Reifer-Jones, who was appointed CEO in August 2017, said improvements are already being felt.

Reifer-Jones said over the last six months there has been an improvement in on time with the airline achieving 90 percent in May.

The LIAT CEO was a panellist at a seminar on Air Transport Competitiveness and Connectivity at the Caribbean Development Bank’s 48th annual Board of Governors meeting in Grenada on Wednesday.

Speaking to Loop following the seminar, she said customers will soon see improvements in other areas.

“You should see an improvement in our customer service, we have been doing training and we hope you will be able to say you have seen an improvement in LIAT’s customer service. I think you have seen an improvement already. The letters we get from customers now are complimentary, there are very few complaints. We are putting in place a new baggage system but I should say that even without a new baggage system we have had an improvement in the number of baggage complaints as well. From an operational point of view, we are doing much better, we are more focused and we are trying to serve the market better,” she said.

Reifer-Jones said her vision for the airline is to provide a reliable customer focused service to the region and as wide a range of territories as possible.

“Because it is important for us to connect socially, culturally and economically and we want to provide the connectivity that the Caribbean needs,” she said.

According to data collected from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), LIAT remains a major carrier for the Eastern Caribbean and Barbados.

Reifer-Jones revealed that the airline is responsible for 26 percent of arrivals in Barbados, 16 percent in St Lucia, 30 percent in Antigua and 31 percent in St Kitts.  Departures are even higher with Barbados, for example, registering 56 percent.

“What’s driving it is that need for connectivity, that’s how we function as a region. It’s a combination of reasons throughout the region that keeps us connected. What LIAT provides is the basis to continue that link,” she said.

Reifer-Jones said a new marketing campaign will be rolled out in time because they need to build market confidence and seek growth as a company.

She said the region will see more initiatives from LIAT such as their partnership with Guyana for the recent Carnival.

She, however, urged tourism boards to do more to promote intra-regional travel which, statistics show, has drastically declined.

“Work with us, build packages, encourage multi-destination travel when tourists come. We will play our part by improving the reliability of our service but we want them to help build intra-regional travel,” she said.

LIAT however, is hampered by critical issues such as a lack of modern technology.

Speaking to the panel, Reifer-Jones revealed that all of the issues are being addressed manually and she expressed hope that shareholders would see the need to invest in technology to allow the airline to become more competitive.