Trinidad travelers affected by Boeing 737 MAX grounding

(Trinidad Guardian) Scores of peo­ple hop­ing to get to Mi­a­mi from Pi­ar­co In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port were get­ting ready to board their flight around 3 pm yes­ter­day when they were turned back and told to leave the de­par­ture gate.

Mo­ments ear­li­er, Unit­ed States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had ground­ed all Boe­ing 737 Max planes with im­me­di­ate ef­fect, leav­ing those pas­sen­gers who were set to leave for the Unit­ed States at 3.25 pm on Amer­i­can Air­lines flight num­ber 2703 strand­ed at Pi­ar­co.

An­oth­er flight des­tined to leave Mi­a­mi for Port-of-Spain at 5.55 pm (on Wednes­day) yes­ter­day, flight num­ber 2713, was al­so can­celled.

To com­pound mat­ters for many of the pas­sen­gers, of­fi­cials were not im­me­di­ate­ly avail­able to clar­i­fy what would hap­pen next, lead­ing to a slight furore at the desk. Po­lice were called in to en­sure that the sit­u­a­tion did not es­ca­late.

One pas­sen­ger with a tick­et for the 3.25 flight bought via the miles sys­tem was told to can­cel the tick­et and seek a re­fund. How­ev­er, he like many did not know when they would get an­oth­er flight on the air­line out of Trinidad. He said the next avail­able flight to him was list­ed as March 30.

Passengers walk through the Piarco International Airport yesterday, hours after the US announced it had grounded all Boeing 737 Max aircraft worldwide.

How­ev­er, AA of­fi­cials at the Port-of-Spain tick­et cen­tre told the T&T Guardian that the air­line would be work­ing to en­sure their ser­vice is not dis­rupt­ed to­mor­row. The su­per­vi­sor at the fa­cil­i­ty said the air­line will as­sess its op­tions with re­gards to equip­ment to en­sure their flights from Trinidad and To­ba­go will not be af­fect­ed. They urged pas­sen­gers sched­uled to leave Trinidad on flights with the air­line to check their web­site for up­dates about their sched­ule.

Amer­i­can Air­lines al­so post­ed a state­ment in the wake of the US Pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion. It said: “On March 13, the Fed­er­al Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FAA) ground­ed all US-reg­is­tered Boe­ing 737 MAX air­craft, in­clud­ing the 8 and 9 vari­ants, as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure. This in­cludes the 24 MAX 8 air­craft in the Amer­i­can Air­lines fleet. We are com­ply­ing with the FAA di­rec­tive.”

AA said it op­er­ates 85 flights per day on the MAX 8, out of 6,700 de­par­tures through­out the Amer­i­can Air­lines sys­tem.

The com­pa­ny de­fend­ed its safe­ty record and al­so list its sta­tis­tics us­ing the Boe­ing air­craft stat­ing, “Amer­i­can has flown more than 2.5 mil­lion pas­sen­gers — dur­ing 46,400 op­er­at­ing hours en­com­pass­ing near­ly 18,000 flights — safe­ly on our MAX 8 fleet since the first one was de­liv­ered Sep­tem­ber 2017 and be­gan com­mer­cial ser­vice lat­er that No­vem­ber.”

The on­line post added, “We apol­o­gise for the in­con­ve­nience this may cause some of our cus­tomers. Our team will work with all cus­tomers im­pact­ed by these flight can­cel­la­tions in or­der to re­book them to their fi­nal des­ti­na­tion. Af­fect­ed cus­tomers may re­book them­selves on by re­triev­ing their reser­va­tion or us­ing our mo­bile app. If a flight is can­celled, cus­tomers may re­quest a full re­fund by vis­it­ing our web­site. Cus­tomers who booked through a trav­el agent are re­quest­ed to con­tact their agency di­rect­ly.”

Coun­tries that ground­ed the Boe­ing Air­craft in­clud­ed Aus­tralia, Chi­na, In­done­sia, Malaysia, Mon­go­lia, Oman, Sin­ga­pore, South Ko­rea, the Unit­ed King­dom, USA and Trinidad and To­ba­go.

In a state­ment on so­cial me­dia yes­ter­day, Min­is­ter of Fi­nance Colm Im­bert said, “Un­til Amer­i­can Air­lines can find oth­er planes, the MIA-POS route is sus­pend­ed, since AA was us­ing the Max 8 for the TT route. But CAL will con­tin­ue to fly its 737-800s.”

Caribbean Air­lines cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tion man­ag­er Dionne Ligoure mean­while said it was too ear­ly to say if the lo­cal air­line would see an in­crease in pas­sen­gers as a re­sult of Trump’s de­ci­sion.

She said, “Caribbean Air­lines of­fers the most ser­vices to South Flori­da, and is open for busi­ness and will hap­pi­ly trans­port any­one will­ing to trav­el to and from Mi­a­mi. We con­tin­ue to close­ly mon­i­tor our in­ven­to­ry and book­ings in this re­gard.”

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