LIAT non-stop capacity in decline; Barbados is leading airport, service to St. Vincent is top-ranked route
LIAT (Leeward Islands Air Transport) is a Caribbean carrier headquartered in Antigua. According to OAG schedules it was the fourth largest Caribbean airline based on annual capacity in 2017. LIAT is an all-turboprop regional operator. ch-aviation shows that the airline currently has an active fleet of 10 ATR -600 series aircraft, consisting of five ATR 42-600s and five ATR 72-600s. The average age of the fleet is just 4.1 years, so operationally the airline is in good shape.
Capacity cut backs
LIAT operated 1.44 million two-way scheduled seats across its published non-stop network in 2017. This represented a significant 41% reduction when compared to the capacity on offer in 2008. The airline has been consistently cutting back direct capacity in recent years. Since 2008 there has only been one year-on-year increase in seats numbers across the LIAT network. This took place in 2010 when marginal 1.3% growth was experienced, pushing seat numbers back up to 2.27 million after they fell to 2.24 million in 2009. Since 2010 the capacity trend has been one of consistent decline. From 2010 to 2017 seat numbers fell by 37% with the largest single cuts coming in 2015 (-14.6%) and 2017 (-11.9%). Although it should be noted that LIAT’s home region of the Caribbean is susceptible to extreme weather events such as hurricanes, the consistent nature of the capacity cuts experienced since 2008 suggests that these are primarily the result of strategic decisions by the airline rather than external factors.
LIAT does not operate any scheduled non-stop domestic services, with its flights focused on short international hops between the Caribbean islands. One notable trend since 2008 is an increase in the airline’s average capacity per flight. In 2008 the average number of seats on a LIAT flight was 45, but by 2017 this had increased by 12 to 59 seats. In 2008 the largest aircraft in the fleet was the 50-seat Q300, but the airline was also operating smaller DHC-6 Twin Otters. Since then it has undergone a fleet renewal which included the introduction of the larger ATR 72.
Barbados and Antigua are main bases
anna.aero examined LIAT’s schedules for the week commencing 29 May to provide an insight into the airline’s typical weekly operations in S18. The Caribbean carrier will serve 14 airports during the week in question. Barbados is the largest of these in terms of departing weekly capacity and flights and will see 79% more departing seats than the next largest airport, Antigua. LIAT will operate to nine destinations from Barbados during the week in question. The airline does not currently operate to more than one airport in any single country, which is in part due to the geographical nature of its home market. The only country market the airline serves outside of the Caribbean is the nearby South American nation of Guyana.
Five of the top 12 airports (highlighted in green) have seen an increase in capacity from LIAT during the week commencing 29 May compared to the corresponding period last year. The largest percentage increases came at Point-a-Pitre (142% growth) and Grenada (57%). Since last summer the carrier has added three times weekly links from Point-a-Pitre to Barbados and more than doubled its weekly frequencies from Grenada to Barbados. Seven of the top-ranked airports (highlighted in red) experienced capacity reductions compared to last year. The largest of these came at Tortola (72% cuts) with LIAT dropping two routes from the Virgin Islands airport and offering fewer frequencies to Antigua and St. Maarten.
Barbados bosses route rankings
Barbados features in six of the top 12 routes. The largest of these is the link to St. Vincent which accounts for 13% of the airline’s two-way seats during the week commencing 29 May. OAG schedules show that LIAT will operate 28 departures from Barbados to St.Vincent during that week, with four daily flights in each direction. Two of the top 12 airport pairs have a discrepancy between the number of direct outbound and inbound frequencies, suggesting that at least some flights operate as part of island-hopping, multi-stop itineraries. The Port of Spain-St.Vincent route sees 17 outbound flights but only 14 direct inbound services, while the St. Vincent-St.Lucia link is flown 10 times per week on the outbound sector but only sees seven direct return rotations.
Half of the top-ranked routes (highlighted in green) experienced an increase in capacity from LIAT this summer compared to the equivalent week in S17. The biggest growth came on the Barbados-St.Lucia sector (123% increase) with weekly frequencies increasing from 10 to 21. Six of the top 12 routes witnessed capacity cuts (highlighted in red). The most significant fall in seat numbers came on the Barbados-Dominica route, with the Caribbean carrier cutting 10 weekly flights from this sector.
New routes for S18
Despite the capacity cuts of recent years, LIAT’s website and OAG data indicate that the carrier plans to add three new routes in S18. The airline has filed schedules for daily services from Port of Spain to Antigua and from Ogle to Port of Spain, with both due to commence on 1 July. A three times weekly connection from Antigua to St. Thomas is slated to start on the following day.