September 14, 2013 by Fensic
Wha’ allyuh doin’? Countin’ de $400.7 million from Kamla an’ dem?
Doh fuhget allyuh does fly plane eh.
Doh fuhget eidder dat Guyana eh happy wid how it feel allyuh does treat it. Dem an’ Jamaica done sic somethin’ call Fly Jamaica on allyuh tail.
Dis man who travel wid allyuh eh like how allyuh do he an’ he family nah.
He now ah disgruntled ex-CAL flyer takin’ de time tuh tell de world he tink allyuh suck.
He gripe appear in de Guyanese papers on de 8th ah de month. Larse time ah check he eh send it tuh no Trini papers.
Allyuh tink allyuh could take time out from counting dem millions an’ read what have de man so upset? Den allyuh tink allyuh could straighten tings out? Den allyuh could go back an’ finish countin’ de money?
Hear he letter, word fuh word.
It was the worst flight I ever made to Guyana in fact the worst I ever made, and I must have done more than a quarter million air miles in my time. It was so horrible that I wonder why I go through this torture with Caribbean Airlines. To add insult to my frustration I opened the airline’s magazine to be confronted with the caption “the best airline in the Caribbean”.
Personally I think the folks at CAL are confused. They may be the only major airline in the Caribbean but certainly not the best.
My visit started with a three-hour ordeal at Orlando International Airport in Florida. Before I even get into the details of the trip, let me state that this was the most expensive trip I ever made. The fares cost over 40 per cent more than I normally paid, and these tickets were booked about six to eight weeks before the trip. The word gouge comes to mind.
We were a party of six, four adults and my two grandkids— a nearly four-year-old and a ten-month-old baby. We arrived the usual three hours before departure time of 5.20 pm. I handed the six passports to a pleasant young lady who began to process the tickets. I sensed something was wrong when she called another clerk for assistance.
From that point it was downhill; I heard the word “conflict” used. From clerk number two the situation then escalated to another person.
So we are waiting, no explanation about what is the problem. After about 45 minutes we were asked to stand aside. “We are working on it”. Clerk number three summoned another person who it would appear was the manager; I demanded to know what was the problem.
She explained the computer was not printing the tickets or baggage claim tags. She gave it a “shot” and said that she had to call CAL headquarters in Trinidad and then disappeared in the back.
It is only so long that you can keep a little child in one place at the airport— baby getting irritable, one hour elapsed, two hours elapsed, still no answer to the problem.
“We have one thing as our focus, providing you with the best Caribbean experience every time”, the magazine boasted. We still have ten suitcases to check and five carry on cases plus a stroller for the baby.
At this point the station closed; every passenger was checked in except us, the counter was being cleared making way for use by another airline; all CAL logos were being removed. At this point I became very concerned and demanded to see the manager for an explanation.
She emerged from the “back” and said they are speaking to the programmers to see what the problem is and disappeared at the “back” again. Another clerk emerged, checked the entire luggage and said she will give me the baggage claim forms later.
Its now going on 5pm; the plane is scheduled to leave at 5.20. At this point I am thinking we cannot go on this flight; it’s too late. Besides we still have to do security check. I inquired from one of the clerks who assisting us, if we would still make the flight. She assured us that the flight will not leave without us, as they delayed the plane.
I expressed my concern about the carry on cases, and she promptly called the gate and asked them to keep space for our carry on. Meanwhile the clerk who checked our baggage said that she gave us our baggage claims tags, which she did not. We had an argument; she swore she gave me.
Finally near departure time the manager came up with the boarding passes, for the first leg Orlando to Jamaica; she said we will uplift the ones to Guyana at Jamaica. At this point I asked about the baggage claim tags, she said she has them. I told her the other clerk swore she gave them to me.
It’s about time for the flight to leave, we are still at the counter; the ticket counter clerk said she will escort us to the plane. When I saw the security lines I said no way, this will take at least an hour, but she bypassed us straight to the scanner, where we spent a few minutes, and unto the plane.
As we moved down the aisle all eyes were on us, and I can guess what they are thinking; we delayed the plane because we came late.
As we were about seated another clerk rushed in and brought us the boarding passes for the rest of the trip. I inquired whether the problem was solved and she said yes, “No more problems even for the return trip.” Now it’s on to Jamaica; we are told that we do not have to disembark. But before the plane arrived in Jamaica we are informed, not only do we have to deplane but we have to go through Immigration and Customs and security again in Jamaica.
At Jamaica you literally walk a half mile maze to get back to the same gate you deplaned; not to mention there are two immigration clerks and one customs clerk to process the in transit passengers.
If you think our problems were over, think again. They gave us a boarding pass short in Orlando, so they had to go over the manifest and do a hand written boarding pass. But wait; now the seats are not together, now the family is scattered with three-year-old in a separate seat from the parents and grandparents.
I told the clerk that this was unacceptable, that our seats were booked together, that I am not going to have my grandson sitting by himself a few seats away. They did some “shuffling’ and placed us three seats together and another two seats together.
To make a long story short we had to disembark again in Trinidad and go through security again, arriving in Guyana after 2am.
You would think that is the end of the ordeal. A week later the family is back at the ticket counter at 4am for the return trip. The ticket clerk called another colleague and uttered the dreaded word “conflict”. Here we go again; problem was not solved. Her rude co-worker told her, “Tell dem to wait aside, we will look after dem later.” My blood boiling I turned to her directly and said, “I am not moving aside, you will deal with this problem now, you will take care of this issue now, not later.” She saw I was determined, probably thought better of it and called someone who I assume was a senior employee. He did whatever he had to do and a little later the boarding passes were produced.
Suffice to say we had to go through security again in Trinidad and Immigration and Customs again in Jamaica.
Caribbean Airlines boasts it is the most experienced in the region, yet it cannot process tickets for a family of six. If this happened to us you my readers can imagine how many other travelers have been subjected to this horrendous ordeal.
I am making the four-hour trip to Miami next Easter with Surinam Airways.
Bye Bye CAL, it was nice knowing you.
Ralph Seeram can be reached at email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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