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AIRLINES TIA 2000


TARGETING THE PEAKS


TIA 2000 wants to better connect the Caribbean with a diverse fleet of small aircraft, but for now LIAT is stalling CEO Bruce Kaufmann’s ambitions


WORDS: EDWARD ROBERTSON F


or any ambitious private airline, there are always issues to overcome as they get off


the ground. But competing with a loss-making but government-backed rival is surely one of the hardest. That is the situation that Bruce Kaufmann, CEO of Caribbean airline Trans Island Air (TIA) 2000, finds himself as he establishes a network across Dominica, St Lucia, St Vincent and Grenada from its base in Barbados. It is competing against Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT) which is owned by seven Caribbean governments, all of which have an interest in keeping it in the skies at whatever cost, Kaufmann believes. He says: “LIAT does a good job in certain areas but it is stretched because it doesn’t have enough aircraft


to do everything, and the aircraft it has are too big to do a number of


Bruce Kaufmann


routes and that’s a problem. “The picking up and dropping off of six or eight people on a 70-seater aircraft is not a commercially successful route to be doing. Over the last couple of years LIAT


28 ISSUE 5 ROUTES NEWS 2017 routesonline.com


has dropped routes that just didn’t make sense to operate and we are looking at these routes to pick up.”


Win-win strategy


In total, Kaufmann believes LIAT is losing money on 60% of its routes. However, he says the governments are unlikely to downsize the airline accordingly, and believes they are too scared of a loss of jobs as well as face to do so. Despite operating smaller aircraft, including two Beechcraft 99 Twin Engine Turbos seating 12 and a DHC-6 Twin Otter with space for 19 passengers, which he believes would make the routes viable, he cannot afford to compete on many of the routes that only survive thanks to subsidies. But he is unconvinced that such common


sense will appear any time soon, adding: “As long as they run the routes then the government has to support them, and it is costing them money. If they drop the routes I would pick them up, and I can make money because of my small planes and the lower operating costs. If I don’t make money the government doesn’t lose it as I won’t be getting any funding; it is a win-win strategy. “As long as they are going to run them


and run them losing money, there’s no way to put additional seats on those routes and we would lose money.”


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