Regional airline LIAT took to the skies again on Sunday, after a seven-month lay-off due to financial troubles arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But grounded Barbadian pilots are still suffering and have no idea when their severance payments will be forthcoming, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has bemoaned.
Acting General Secretary of the NUPW, Delcia Burke said yesterday things were so bad for the pilots, some have been forced to sell their vehicles and other personal items to survive the last few months.
LIAT returned for a ceremonial flight yesterday, operating its first flight today from the V.C. Bird International Airport in Antigua and Barbuda to Dominica.
LIAT said on Sunday it would operate a limited schedule of flights later this month in an attempt to return to as close to a regular schedule as possible.
The airline is currently completing training and regulatory requirements for the Caribbean islands it plans to service within the next few weeks. It is expected to reveal by this weekend, the limited schedule as well as its other destinations.
But here in Barbados, those severed pilots are at their wits end, said their union.
“The problem is that when you are a pilot, there is nothing else you can do. It’s a skill and all of them would have been pilots all their lives. One sold a piece of land, and another sold his car. Some are even looking at their jewellery and disposing of it so they can eat and pay their bills,” Burke told the Starcom Network yesterday.
The trade unionist noted that to be out of work for seven months had forced most of the pilots to use up all their personal savings.
On its full restart later this month, the cash-strapped airline is set to introduce several new procedures to ensure the safety of passengers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All passengers will be required to wear masks when checking in at regional airports, as well as aboard the aircraft.
It will also clean and sanitise the aircraft after each flight.
LIAT remains under financial administration, but is being restructured to improve its bottom line and maintenance programme since the Gaston Browne-led administration attempted to re-organise the airline. (BA/PR)