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LIAT pilots’ sick out leaves scores of angry passengers

LIAT pilots’ sick out leaves scores of angry passengers


Pandemonium almost reigned at the E T Joshua airport Wednesday, as scores of passengers scheduled to travel on the regional airline LIAT were left stranded in the wake of the second day of industrial action taken by the airline’s pilots.{{more}}

Irate passengers did not hide their emotions, as many attempted to make alternative flight arrangements, but were unsuccessful.

Among those stranded was Jamaican entertainer Junior Reid and members of his entourage (see separate story on page 13 ) who were not afraid to express their feelings to the LIAT agents and country manager Dominic Patterson.

Members of the local constabulary had to be called in to calm down Reid’s band members, who began banging on counters, shouting and using offensive language.

Mark Ellis, although not as boisterous as the Jamaicans, was visibly frustrated as he tried to secure a flight to Trinidad for him and his sister Immogene, where she was heading to seek medical attention.

Ellis told SEARCHLIGHT that he had been trying to get on a flight since Tuesday, December 6 – the first day of the industrial action.

“This is wickedness, and nobody trying to help,” Ellis lamented.

“I have been quiet. I have been quiet since yesterday, but I can’t take it no more,” he said.

Ellis explained that he and his sister were told that they would be put on a flight to Trinidad on Wednesday, but when he arrived at the airport that morning, the flight had been changed to Barbados.

The frustrated man said that he was given the option to travel on a chartered flight, but told he would have to pay, although he had already purchased two tickets to travel with LIAT.

He further contended that he was told that he would not be given a refund.

Meanwhile, Immogene told SEARCHLIGHT that her appointment was scheduled for yesterday, Thursday, December 8.

The young woman said that she was having medical problems with her lungs and was advised to remain in a horizontal position, but was unable to because she and her brother were both stranded at the airport.

“They just keep saying one flight is supposed to be leaving, but nothing happening,” she said.

Another passenger Jose Cancel said that he was scheduled to depart at 9:40 a.m. to Puerto Rico then on to St Kitts.

But his flight had been cancelled and according to Cancel, he was trying to book another flight with Grenadines Air out of Bequia which would take him to Barbados.

That flight was expected to depart from St Vincent around 1:30 p.m Wednesday afternoon, and according to the man, unless the flight left earlier, it was going to mess with his plans for the day.

Another passenger en route to Toronto told SEARCHLIGHT that she was expected to leave St Vincent on Tuesday via Trinidad, then connect on to her final destination, but the action also left her stranded.

She told SEARCHLIGHT that she was now required to pay US$93 to change her flight with LIAT which was now expected to leave for Trinidad yesterday, Thursday, and with regard to her connecting flight, she was going to be required to purchase another ticket.

The industrial action also impacted some local businesses, traffickers to be exact.

Celina Cumberbatch said that she had been trying to get on a flight to Trinidad since Tuesday but that she and at least three other traffickers were finding it difficult to do so.

Cumberbatch said that the last word she was given was that there would be a flight to the twin island republic on Wednesday, but that was changed.

She further contended that she had no intention to pay to have her flight rescheduled.

The ‘sick-out’ action by Liat’s pilots follows the dismissal of Captain Michael Blackburn, who was also the chairman of the Liat’s Pilot Association, on Monday, December 5.

A report which appeared in the Antigua Observer on November 28 indicated that Blackburn had come under scrutiny for an alleged violation at the George F Charles airport in St Lucia.

Industrial action began on Tuesday, December 6.

In an update on Wednesday, December 7, on Liat’s website the airline indicated that “Customers affected by the disruptions who wish to rebook will be allowed to do so without charge for a period of one week from the date of their original scheduled travel. Following the one-week grace period, passengers will be required to pay applicable fare and change fees when re-booking. Passengers who are unable to travel as planned due to the industrial action, at their request, will be issued a full credit for future travel. When services resume, affected passengers are advised to contact LIAT Reservations to rebook before proceeding to the airport. Liat also wishes to advise that passengers who decide to travel but are unable to complete their journey due to the disruption will not be provided with meals, transportation, hotel accommodation etc. Passengers with onward connections are advised to contact their respective carriers.”