After days of flight delays, cancellations and criticisms from stranded passengers, Fly Jamaica says it has been able to resume normal operations after clearing its backlog over the weekend.
Commercial Operations Manager Carl Bowen also said it has already started making administrative changes to ensure that they are better prepared to tackle similar situations.
Giving an update to Stabroek News yesterday, Bowen stated that they are back on schedule and currently have no backlog here or in the USA and Canada.
Bowen had explained in an earlier interview that scheduled and unscheduled maintenance to their planes coupled with a snow storm on the US East Coast and other complications had forced the airline to cancel flights and leave some 200+ passengers in Guyana. At the JFK airport in New York, the snow storm prevented the airline from using their Terminal One slot which also heavily influenced and compounded the problems.
Despite setting up a 24-hour call centre, passengers were still outraged at not being able to get information from the airline and had expressed it on social media and the local media. When asked to comment on how they handled the customers who were enquiring throughout the period of delays, Bowen conceded that call centres and reservation lines were overwhelmed at certain hours which prevented some persons from getting through.
“I can tell you we have about 20 reservation staff and plus auxiliary staff who would help with the local calls as well. We have cell centres overseas in Kingston, two in Brooklyn and one in Toronto and they were all fielding calls but at times it was such a high volume that this was happening and people were not getting through. At times all 20 lines were busy at one time and I think that is where most of the complaints came about,” Bowen said, while refuting claims that the airline was unable to give updates to their customers who had called.
He explained that the airline did explain to their customers what was happening but they might not have “liked the story” they were being told.
“We were able to say what day people were going but people felt the facts were being misrepresented,” he said, while stating that administrative processes will be changed because of their experience.
“It is something that our operations department will have to sit down and analyze. Processes are now in effect to make changes, especially in the call centre,” Bowen said.
He explained that their experience with the “perfect storm” and everything else that contributed to the major issues that they faced has resulted in changes. With respect to the call centre, Bowen noted that they have started retraining their current staff, improving their equipment and have been expanding their capacity.
“Some have already been done in the last four days and as we went along changes were made. So processes are already in effect and we have definitely learned from the circumstances of irregular operations and it’s only natural that you learn from your mistakes and nobody is saying that mistakes weren’t made,” Bowen added.
He also noted that they have been heavily depending on chartered services, which also added to the issues the airline faced, and while he can’t say what direction the company will take, he has noticed that they are depending less on the chartered services.
In terms of accommodating delayed passengers who were not able to return home, Bowen noted that more than 20 passengers have made claims, which they are allowed to, for accommodations in hotels and there is no person who could say they were “stranded and without shelter or food.”
“Passengers could claim from the customer relations department and most persons were staying with their family and they can claim as well. For a few people staying at hotels we would’ve reimbursed them and we like to put them in hotels we have deals with,” he added.
Despite the airline having a rocky tenure for periods since they began operating some six years ago, Bowen pointed out that the fact that Fly Jamaica has stayed for so long shows their unwavering support and trust in the Guyanese market and that they can only learn from this period of delays.