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The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

Now the very last thing I would like to do is to discredit any leadership as it is very common for another to think that he or she can be more effective in doing someone else’s job.

However, it is mind boggling as to how the transition process in gradually upgrading and placing new larger aircrafts into operation can create such turmoil within LIAT, especially since such transitions are standard and common place within the international aviation transport sector.

Who are these process experts? And who approved the proposed implementation plan? I hope that they will all be fired, as the distress of customers is inexcusable at this point. The reality is that students are taught by teachers and if the head is in turmoil then can we really expect much of the tail?

I have travelled on LIAT for the past 45 years and will endeavour to endorse its on-going dedication especially for us en-route to SVG. I must however, emphasize that the service provided via Barbados has always been problematic and seem to have reached rock bottom over the past few months.

Here is the latest scenario, travelling from St. Vincent to Barbados on Aug. 2, 2013: the plane was almost two hours late in leaving. It was not communicated to us that our baggage was not on the plane until we got to Barbados. We were then directed to the Barbados baggage agents who gave us a typed piece of paper with their phone number and e-mail address and a verbal promise to have our baggage in Toronto by Westjet the next day.

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On Aug. 4, 2013, I received a call from a female LIAT baggage agent (name I will not disclose) who “apologized for sending my baggage to Miami on American Airlines in error and will ensure that it gets to me”. A few days later, I got an e-mail from the said agent saying that she encountered a minor injury and will not be at work for two weeks, therefore I can communicate with her at her personal e-mail address in the mean time. In checking for the status several days later, she then again apologized for “still trying to reach Miami and that another Barbados agent (male) will provide the update”.

Well on Aug. 18, 2013 after not being contacted by the male worker, I called and was told by the said (male) agent that “mine is the only baggage of that batch that cannot be located”. What a coincidence I thought!

However, American and Westjet airline agents informed me that they do not have any agreements with LIAT and therefore, have no way of tracing LIAT’s baggage tag numbers. They also confirmed that it is not unusual for the baggage to have never left Barbados. Toronto Westjet said that it is an on-going chaos at the Pearson Airport with unaccompanied baggage from SVG via Barbados to Toronto.

Here is the situation that we all should be aware of:

• LIAT has no agreement with the connecting airlines.

• In other words, Westjet, American Airlines and Air Canada are only doing a favour to accept and transport the unaccompanied baggage.

• LIAT has no agents in the USA or Canada.

• LIAT’s baggage tag numbers cannot be traced out of LIAT’s service jurisdiction.

• It is also a breach of security to put unaccompanied baggage on passenger planes.

• Therefore, leaving your baggage in Barbados is at your own risk as Westjet, American Airlines, and Air Canada do not complete a claim if your baggage did not travel with you on their aircraft.

To note that when LIAT’s baggage agent was asked about compensation for my lost baggage, I was told that I have to call the head of baggage in Barbados and was being told this during a call I made and in a conversation with the said male baggage agent who was already aware of the several calls made at my expense as LIAT does not have a 1-800 number connection for North America.

After my numerous unsuccessful investigations by phone and e-mail, and prior to perusing the claim process with an already confused LIAT administration, I drove to the Toronto Pearson International Airport on Aug. 20, 2013, (the third week since my baggage has gone missing), visited the on-duty officers at the baggage section of Air Canada Terminal One then on to WestJet and American Airlines at Terminal Three. I incurred a $30 parking bill, the disappointment of still no trace of my baggage, the many negative feedback of my native LIAT carrier, such as the disregard of policy by my people who persisted in travelling with raw foods creating smelly havocs within the baggage compartments of aircrafts and the overall inconvenience internationally.

To note that American Airline called me on Aug. 21, 2013 to say that my baggage has at long last shown up on their very last Aug. 20 flight following an escalated search globally. Strangely enough, a few hours after my baggage was delivered at my expense, the LIAT agent called to inform me that my baggage will arrive in Toronto the following day, Aug. 22, 2013. I said thanks but my baggage has preceded your information by 24 hours.

Just few days ago, in a Searchlight article; Desmond Brown, head of corporation communication of LIAT stated, “We will also continue to issue timely, informative and up-to-date Passenger Communication Advisories at all stations; and directly to our customers where contact information has been provided.

“We are doing all we can and we will provide open and honest communication to you while we seek to normalize the situation for our valued customers by providing the care and support that you deserve.”

Let me replicate by “open and honest communication” (as is the anticipation of Mr. Desmond Brown re his LIAT customer service team) admitting that I have lost all faith in the tracing and or expediting process of LIAT, as even with them having my “contact information” for the past three weeks, it appears that nothing was being done except LIAT’s hope that the customer’s baggage will appear out of the blue skies of Barbados and fall into their laps.

Again I will reiterate: international airport development in SVG has long been over due! So let us learn from the current LIAT turmoil in preparation of the effective management of a new Argyle international airport, where racism and nationalism have no place in our goal to be a truly world class international airport.

Elma Gabriel-Mayers

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

2 replies on “‘LIAT’s turmoil’ — a lesson in effective management of Argyle airport”

  1. Elma Gabriel Mayers, I am relieved that you got your baggage after all that. And it is interesting to understand the state of LIAT’s relationship with connecting airlines with resect to baggage. I am indeed enlightened. Thank you.

    Seems like we have to get used to travelling really light when we must connect with LIAT. In this scenario, it seems clear that the international airport at Argyle can’t come fast enough.

  2. Elma, your report about your experience with LIAT is very timely and informative.

    Until SVG international airport is delivered, I would like to say to the PM of SVG, “you claim to profess love/devotation to SVG and its people, then if you sincerely do, please invite some aviation competition for LIAT in SVG to ease the stress of the people/visitors who travel in/out of SVG.” Why is LIAT our only alternative for international connections? Come on PM, give us some decent representation with regards air travel.

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