KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — About 150 persons destined for this country are currently in Barbados hoping to be airlifted some time today as industrial action by LIAT pilots, which began on Tuesday, continues.
LIAT, in an advisory this morning, said that the sickout by pilots represented by the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) “is continuing on a limited basis”.
“Some pilots have reported for duty and as a result most flights are now expected to operate. Due to the continued action by the pilots, passengers are advised that there may be further cancellations or rescheduling of flights throughout the day,” the regional airline said in a bulleting at 7 a.m.
The airline, however, announced at 11 a.m. Thursday the cancellation of the following flights:
- LI 370 – Barbados-St. Lucia-Martinique
- LI 781/778 – Guyana-Barbados-Guyana
- LI 385/384/383/382 – Barbados-St. Vincent-San Juan-St. Vincent-Barbados
- LI 721 – Barbados-St. Lucia-Trinidad
In addition, flight LI 504, which flies the Antigua-St. Kitts-St. Maarten-St. Kitts route, is delayed, the airline said.
Meanwhile, Vincentian trade unionist, Joseph Burns Bonadie, who is among passengers stranded in Barbados since Tuesday, gave an update on the situation in a call to a local radio programme around 11 a.m. Thursday.
He said that he expected that 100 passengers destined for this country would be able to fly on two flights later today.
He, however, said that a flight scheduled for 9 a.m. was still on the ground at the time of his call around 11 a.m.
The passengers were waiting to fly even as two LIAT aircrafts remained on the ground in Barbados without pilots.
Further, according to Bonadie, LIAT pilots are working to rule.
He said that as trade unionist, working to rule means calling in engineers to check out an aircraft if there is a one-second delay in a light illuminating in an aircraft.
And while Caribbean Airlines has been approached to fly to St. Vincent, the airline’s pilots certified to land at E.T. Joshua airport were flying different routes, Bonadie said.
He said that the situation at the Grantley Adams International Airport was such that airport authorities this morning summoned the police.
Things have still simmered down, Bonadie said, as persons destined for St. Vincent and other parts of the Caribbean — some of whom have been stranded for days — try to get word on when they can fly.
“So, it is still rough up here,” he said.
The situation exists even as other international carriers, some carrying persons destined for St. Vincent, were scheduled to land in Barbados this afternoon.
Bonadie said that while there were other Caribbean national or passengers destined for other Caribbean destinations stranded in Barbados, Vincentians constituted the majority.
“The other countries are not in as deep as we are,” he said, adding that the situation underscores the need for an international airport here.
Some passengers have been trying to make arrangement to travel to their various destinations, with one airline charging US$200 (EC$540) per passenger to fly to St. Vincent and another US$80 to fly to Guyana.
Bonadie said that that passengers also contacted the owners of the Jaden Sun — the express ferry that sails between Kingstown and Canouan in 90 minutes — to make the 100-mile trip to Barbados.
The ferry’s owner, however, needed special permit to travel such a route, Bonadie said.
Bonadie said that passengers who were able to get seats on LIAT flight were still being charged for overweight luggage.
He spoke of a woman who paid 100 pounds in London — believing that she won’t have top pay again before getting to St Vincent — being charged an additional US$60 by LIAT.
Bonadie said he was trying to inspire home in passengers, some of whom are wheelchair bound and others were “bawling, crying”.
He said that Isaac Solomon, this country’s director at LIAT has been trying to make arrangements to fly the nation’s citizens home.
Among the Vincentian passengers stranded in Barbados are kidney patient Dacent Henry, international singer Judy Boucher, servicemen in the British Army and their families, and farm workers returning from Canada.