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Joined: 26†Dec†2005
Location: Cayman Islands
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Quote caymanian Replybullet Topic: tra-regional travel ahead of CWC
    Posted: 27†Feb†2007 at 8:49am
tra-regional travel ahead of CWC
published: Tuesday | February 27, 2007

A weekday morning on a typical St. Lucian street. This will be part of the experience for cricket fans who flock to the island when the Cricket World Cup kicks off in a few days. - Norman Grindley/Deputy Chief Photographer

Peter Espeut, Contributor

Last Wednesday, I left Jamaica en route to Kingstown (St. Vincent) via Barbados. With the start of Cricket World Cup (CWC) only days away, the experience was ominous.

First, I must say that the Caribbean Single Immigration Space worked well enough. As I left Jamaica, a band was attached to my wrist guaranteeing me special immigration access to the CARICOM cricket countries; it had a time limit: exposed to the air long enough, red bars appear on the wrist-band which will invalidate it. It more-or-less worked! I still had to fill out an immigration card, but I joined a special arm-band line and got through in no time. But the red bars appeared on the arm-band even before I left Barbados, so if they wanted to be strict, I could have had problems.

There were three major worries. There is still no inter-line baggage agreement between the airline BWIA has become (Caribbean Airlines) and the airline LIAT/Caribbean Star has become (LIAT Star of the Caribbean); so my luggage could not be checked right through to St. Vincent. I had to take it off the carousel, clear Barbadian customs, then check in anew for St. Vincent. I hope they sign an agreement before cricket starts, or there will be thousands of inconvenienced cricket fans.

That was bad, but it gets worse; because the humongous new Grantley Adams Airportin Barbados has no provisions for passengers easily changing airlines. To check in on LIAT (say to go to a cricket match in Grenada or St. Vincent) you have to exit the airport, and walk (with your hand luggage and the luggage you want to check in) a huge distance from the arrivals hall to the departure area - about a quarter of a mile away. I can see the disgruntled tourists now!

Getting worse

Now, unlike Jamaica, Barbados does not provide luggage carts for passengers; either you carry your luggage yourself, or you pay a porter big bucks to take it for you. This is not good customer service: this is a rip-off!

Why don't they have a LIAT check-in counter right in the customs hall, where you can check your baggage and get your boarding pass? But then, that would be too convenient for us travellers. Last March - about one year ago - I wrote about this same set of problems, and pointed out that airport and airline authorities still had more than a year to get it right. It has not happened! There is going to be a big cricket balls-up! I can see it all now!

But it gets worse. The flight was not full, but when I got to Kingstown after nine at night, no luggage! All of us stood around the carousel, watching luggage going round and round, and nobody took anything off! It was other people's luggage from previous flights!

So, I (and a multitude) walk from the arrivals to the departure area at the airport (thankfully not as far as in Barbados) to report our lost luggage. The customer service agent says matter-of-factly, "You will get it tomorrow. We have a flight coming in from Barbados at 8:30 a.m. Call us at 9:00 a.m". Some passengers were connecting to other islands like Bequia or Mustique. Not even a "Sorry for the inconvenience".

Late luggage

A photo of a Caribbean Airlines aircraft as depicted on the carrier's website,

So I called at 9:00 a.m.; no answer! So myhosts drive me to the airport, but no luggage; (but lots from previously unfortunate passengers). It didn't arrive on the midday flight, or the 3:30 p.m. flight, or the 6:30 p.m. flight. Luckily it came in at 8:30 p.m. on the last flight. By this time, my hosts had been forced to shell out clean clothes for me; but I was happy to have my own.

What is the message here: LIAT - weeks before the World Cup - is about a day behind with its luggage. You cannot expect if you travel on LIAT that you and your luggage will arrive together. Imagine what will happen when a few thousand extra travellers all want to move at the same time to catch the same cricket matches! I can see the disgruntled cricket fans with their bats in hand, marching to the airline counters demanding their luggage! It's not going to be pretty!

How is it that two of the main Caribbean airlines have undergone such major changes so close to the World Cup? Chaos has merged with chaos; the staff that remain are in the same old uniforms, the cups and napkins still have the old airline names, and don't expect an apology if anything goes wrong!

I know that I am going to stay far away from this part of the world for the next few months!

Peter Espeut is an international consultant in sustainable rural development.
I'm alive, it's a good day.Cel
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