Flights from hell and the atrocious customer service of Fly Jamaica

Dear Editor,

After reading an article in the Sunday Stabroek `Fly Jamaica hoping to clear backlog today’ and seeing the height of arrogance coming from Fly Jamaica’s CEO, I simply had to pen this letter to let the public know of the nightmares of travelling with this airline. And to alert the public why many passengers vowed never to travel with Fly Jamaica again.

I had 2 relatives booked with this airline. One relative was scheduled to return to Canada on 9 January whilst another was scheduled to return to Guyana from Canada on 12 January. Both of these relatives were affected by the cancelled flights lasting for about a week and both went through hell on their respective flights.

Relative No 1 scheduled to return to Canada on 9th January was stranded for several days without word as to when her flight would take place.  I, along with relatives in Canada, tried calling Fly Jamaica offices in Guyana and Toronto. For several days we made countless calls to Fly Jamaica and most of the time the phones rang out. On the few times we managed to get through, the person answering could not provide the information and went to get an airline representative. After ages of waiting we were disconnected. When we tried ringing the numbers again we were met with unanswered calls. Despite this “24-hour call centre” we never got through in the nights and most calls during the day went unanswered. We called travel agents as well to get info and they told us that they too were not getting through to Fly Jamaica to get answers for their stranded passengers.

Other times persons from Fly Jamaica took our numbers and offered to call us back. To date they never called us. We were getting more and more frustrated. On 3 occasions when I managed to get hold of an airline representative at Ogle, I was shocked at their rudeness and attitude. They refused to provide any info and on those 3 occasions I had the phone cut off in the middle of me talking to them. This was no inadvertent disconnection. The representative was rude and then proceeded to cut off the phone. We still couldn’t get any information about the two flights.

After countless attempts over several tiring days, relative No 1 finally got on to the flight bound for Canada on 12 January. This is after she was told that the flight was full and she would have to wait until Tuesday 16th January to get home. My folks in Canada were told many different stories from what the Fly Jamaica employees were telling us in Guyana. Lies upon lies were fed to us that confused us and frightened us many a times.

Relative No 1 was scheduled to depart at 5:45am on Friday 12th January  to Canada. We departed home at 11:30pm on Thursday 11th Jan for the airport for a 1am check in. At 1am no check in started. We reached CJIA only to find hundreds of passengers locked outside the terminal with no instruction given to them. Suitcases, passengers, and children were all over the place. Many arguments ensued among passengers who were stranded for nearly a week. It was after 1:30am when check in commenced. When relative No 1 reached the check in counter she spent about half an hour there because her name could not be found on  the list. Finally that was cleared up and she successfully checked in.

We were told that the flight would depart at 6:30am instead of 5:45am. That flight actually departed after 9am from Guyana to Canada. After some time, I called Fly Jamaica at Ogle for a time the flight would arrive in Canada so pick-up arrangements could be made. They couldn’t give me a time except to say it would arrive 6 hours later.  I deduced that sometime after 3pm the flight would arrive. Then after 1pm I received a call from Canada from a relative who was tracking the flight that the online flight-board at Pearson showed the flight arriving at 7:20pm. Where was this flight and why was a direct flight from Guyana to Toronto taking nearly 10 hours? No one was told of any stop along the way.

I called Fly Jamaica again. After numerous unanswered calls, I finally reached a representative who said the flight would indeed arrive in Canada after 7pm. It stopped in Jamaica. I inquired why. The representative rudely asked me if I was the passenger and if I had a booking reference and why I wanted to know. I couldn’t believe I was hearing this ignorance. I told her my relative was on that flight and I need to know about her. The phone was slammed down!

I continued to dig for some explanation as to what was happening with this flight and was subsequently told that there was a valve on the plane that needed to be fixed so they stopped in Jamaica to do so. And for about 3 hours or so the passengers were there.

That flight that departed Guyana after 9am on 12th Jan arrived in Toronto after 8pm that day. It didn’t end there. The passengers upon exiting the aircraft were stranded again at Pearson. There were no handlers to offload the suitcases and because the weather was bad and due to the time it took to find handlers, the plane doors were frozen shut. The airline’s manager at Pearson was running helter-skelter to find handlers to offload the suitcases and load the out-bound passenger’s suitcases. The passengers that came off that flight didn’t get their suitcases until 3 hours after landing at Pearson. This is no exaggeration. Passengers misbehaved quite understandably, and security was called in. I can’t blame the passengers. This was too much. These passengers had been through a lot at the hands of Fly Jamaica and we can’t blame them for their frustration, which Fly Jamaica officials are making out to look as if the passengers are unreasonably unruly. The passengers were not, but have been put through hell by Fly Jamaica.

Relative No 2 who was scheduled to depart Toronto on the same aircraft that brought in the Canada-bound passengers was checked in since 10am on 12th Jan for a 1:45pm departure to Guyana.  Given what had transpired on the Canada bound flight with all the delays, the Guyana bound passengers were also delayed. This set of passengers were told that they would depart sometime after 5pm and then at 9:20pm. And that time changed to 11:30pm. The Guyana bound passengers who were checked in since 10am on Friday 12 January had to spend all day and all night at Pearson Airport because their flight actually departed Canada around 3am on Saturday 13 Jan. That flight arrived at 10:04am on 13th January.

There were babies, children and elderly on these flights and I hate to think of the ordeal they endured.

These were flights from hell.

From the inception of the problem with Fly Jamaica passengers have been fed lies upon lies. From a charter airline coming to take out stranded passengers (which never happened) to new flight dates being set (which wasn’t the case), to contradicting info and then no information at all, to passengers not getting on the flights, this airline was grossly uncaring, insensitive, mean and deceptive to passengers.

All of my relatives – and we are a lot –  have decided to never again use this airline and we have ever since been telling all we know in the Diaspora and home here about Fly Jamaica’s atrocious service and warning them against flying with this airline.

My major regret is airlines like these are not penalised for all they do customers. It is one thing to have maintenance issues which we understand and can be patient with and even delays due to force majeure. But when your customer service is atrocious and downright mean and hostile as well, that’s another thing.

There is nothing to boast about Mr. CEO and Fly Jamaica. If no penalty is placed upon you by authorities rest assure passengers will react. You have lost many passengers. And we have been encouraging others to book with other airlines, telling them all that happened. For me, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the atrocious customer service of Fly Jamaica.

Yours faithfully,

Daren Jaipaul   

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