Liat management and majority shareholders have opened discussions with executives at Caribbean Airlines about the need for closer cooperation between the carriers.

The meeting, which occurred during a quarterly review of Liat's performance on 16 January, comes as Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding has courted Caribbean for a takeover of state-owned Air Jamaica. The Jamaican government has been trying to privatise the airline since 2008.

Prime ministers from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines - the countries that are the major shareholders in Liat - met with Liat acting chief executive Brian Challenger, Liat chairman Jean Holder, Caribbean chairman Arthur Lok Jack and Caribbean chief executive Ian Brunton.

Talks "centered around the critical role of air transportation services in the socio-economic development of the region and the need to improve communications both between Caribbean states and with the wider world with which they do business", Liat says in a statement.

The parties agreed to put measures in place immediately for further direct discussions between Liat and Caribbean management.

"The focus of the planned meetings will be to explore the nature and extent of LIAT and CAL [Caribbean Airlines] cooperation in the best interests of the Caribbean region," Liat says.

An interest by Liat and Caribbean to strengthen ties is the lastest development in long-standing calls for conslidating air service in the region. Island governments in 2003 began taking steps to create a new holding company to oversee the operation and possible merger of BWIA and Antiguan operator Liat, which never occurred. In January 2007, Trinidad and Tobago formed Caribbean to replace loss-making BWIA.

While a Caribbean spokeswoman declined to elaborate about the recent "exploratory meeting", Brunton said in October 2009 that though he foresees no immediate changes to the carrier's present strategy, Caribbean is constantly seeking consolidation and growth opportunities.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news