Lousy service by CAL at Timehri

Dear Editor,

 

This letter is in regards to the outrageous treatment by Caribbean Airlines meted out to passengers travelling from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Guyana to the Lester B. Pearson International Airport Toronto, Canada over the period Friday April 18 to Saturday April 19, 2014.

Flight BW 606 was scheduled to depart Guyana on Friday April 18th 2014 at 2.05 PM, a direct flight to Toronto, Canada.

Here are the issues:

On Friday April 18th the aircraft was many hours late in arriving in Guyana without any CAL officials providing timely information, whether by PA announcements or personally as to the reason or reasons for the delay or when we might expect to depart for Canada. Only after repeated requests for information were passengers advised that the delay was because the aircraft had “radar” issues. At no time did Caribbean Airlines or its officials make any attempt to ensure its passengers were made as comfortable as possible. It was only after repeated demands for meals and beverages they were provided, and done so in an untimely manner. Some elderly and other passengers with dietary restrictions had to endure further delays in obtaining their meals.

Passengers were finally permitted to board the aircraft, but it was noted on our walk to the aircraft that checked luggage which we believed was ours, was being off-loaded. We sat aboard the aircraft for an indeterminable period of time without any reasons being provided by the aircrew. Only after irate comments by passengers did the Captain of the flight announce that the aircrew had exceeded their flight time and that he was contacting Trinidad for further instructions. No additional information was provided and only after demands by several passengers to be let off the aircraft did the Captain advise that the flight was going “nowhere” and allowed us to deplane with instructions to contact Caribbean Airlines officials in the Cheddi Jagan International Airport terminal. As before, Caribbean Airlines terminal officials were difficult to contact and passengers were forced to exit the secure area in order to meet with them at the check-in counter. Travellers were never addressed as a group and the only way information was gathered was by individual passenger discussions with ticket agents who often seemed disorganized, mismanaged and uncoordinated. We were eventually made aware that the earliest flights available were the next day, Saturday April 19th at 7.30 AM and 9.35AM, with connections in Trinidad. No offers of accommodations, ground transportation or meals were ever volunteered by the agents and when pressed, responses varied from agent to agent. Some finally said that hotel accommodations and transportation would be made available and food could be obtained at the food concession just outside the terminal lobby.

Most hotels when contacted however stated that Caribbean Airlines vouchers were not accepted or honoured, most notably the hotel within the vicinity of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. The only consideration by Caribbean Airlines was a $300 transportation voucher, issued conditionally that Caribbean Airlines be released from any other claims with said voucher to be used within one year from issue date.

Much later in the evening of April 18th some passengers were made aware that there was now a direct flight from Guyana to Toronto numbered BW 606 scheduled to depart at 10.00 AM on Saturday April 19th. I along with several fellow travellers from a Guyana familiarization tour group opted to go on the direct flight.

After enduring a very uncomfortable night on chairs at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport we had to again check-in our baggage which had to be reclaimed from the arrivals lounge (another lengthy and tiresome process, sometimes having to locate a Caribbean Airlines personnel to accompany us).

On Saturday April 19th, none of the three Caribbean Airlines flights scheduled to leave Guyana arrived or departed on time. The direct flight to Toronto, Flight BW 606 in particular was of major concern due to the fact that the flight status continued to show “On Time”, even when 10.00 AM came and passed and the aircraft still had not arrived in Guyana and no one at Caribbean Airlines when contacted could or would provide any explanation, even when the aircraft finally arrived at approx 12.00 PM. Needless to say after enduring what had occurred the day before, some approximately 60 passengers became quite irate, demanding answers from CAL personnel. Their response ranged from answers like “I just came on shift and I am not aware of what happened the day before” or on request by passengers to have access to a phone, be told that the supervisor/manager has it and has gone aboard the aircraft or that the aircraft captain is using it. There were attempts at intimidation by some of the Caribbean Airlines personnel (in particular a young lady) who tried to prevent the documentation of their unprofessional behaviour. There was even a period of time when Flight BW 606 “disappeared” off the flight board, most disconcertingly after a passenger announced that her husband in Toronto could find no trace of such a flight leaving Guyana.

Passengers continued to wait for boarding announcements and CAL officials when pressed, advised that the aircraft then needed to go through a “diagnostic check” and afterwards a refuelling. We finally were allowed to embark the aircraft and left without any further incident.

There are several questions I have:

On the initial BW 606 scheduled to depart on Friday April 18th at 2.05 PM Caribbean Airlines knowing that the aircraft was delayed in Trinidad for a “radar” issue, permitted the aircrew to fly onto Guyana for onward flight to Toronto knowing fully well that the pilots would exceed their flying hours. Incidentally this aircraft flew out of Cheddi Jagan International Airport at approximately 1.00 AM on Saturday April 19th   . Destination? Who was aboard? What happened to the pilots exceeding their flying hours? The solution was either to have put a fresh crew aboard before it had left Trinidad or if the aircrew had enough flight hours to make it back to Trinidad, done so with the passengers and then have aircrew/pilots take over the flight outbound to Toronto.

The Caribbean Airlines representatives at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport seem ill trained, uncoordinated and out of touch as to the standards expected of Airline carriers. While some of the personnel attempted to be cordial and helpful, they seemed lacking in direction.

 

I am most disappointed in the service of Caribbean Airlines and am making the Guyana authorities, namely the Guyana Tourism Association, my travel agents, the Canadian, U.S. and Guyana media and all who would listen, aware of what transpired. From discussions with other travellers I have been made to understand that this type of sub par service has been an ongoing issue.

I will be urging all who will listen to take whatever action necessary to have Caribbean Airlines take corrective measures. For me personally, I by choice would not travel on your airline unless the service vastly improves.

 

Yours faithfully,
Dennis Choo-Wing

 

 

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