We found another LIAT horror story online on Mathaba.net, it would seem that their director of news was bound to Barbados from St. Vincent to connect to an Air Jamaica flight. Little did he know what LIAT had in store for him….
After the LIAT aircraft had closed its doors and was taxying to the runway for taking off from St Vincent and the Grenadines airport this morning, the air hostess announced to the surprise of many on board that flight 752 to Barbados was now renamed flight 761 to Grenada.
Affected passengers with connecting flights onward were reassured that the plane would still arrive in Barbados in good time and if need be, connecting flights would wait. In the case of flights to Jamaica and with onward connections to Cuba, those passengers need not worry as there would be “plenty of time” to check-in at the Air Jamaica counter.
However, at the superb Cuban-built airport in Grenada which had been used as an excuse by the United States to invade and overthrow the government of that island nation in 1983, a further delay occured due to a shortage of seats on the aircraft which was now covering for a second flight route.
Needless to say by the time the flight got to Barbados, the beleaguered editor missed his connection. This consolidation of flights is not unusual to anyone who travels LIAT regularly. However there were some interesting observations about transiting through Barbados’ new 200 million dollar HUB airport.
Not only are passengers subjected to a lengthy bureaucratic form-filling operation that gives them a visa to remain in Barbados even if wishing to do nothing more than transfer flights, but the immigration officer will pose unwaranted questions!
Passengers in transit through Barbados to independent island nations such as St Vincent or Dominica which long ago threw off British colonialism, but which may not have airports large enough to receive direct international flights, are then subjected to questioning by the immigration officials: “Why are you going to St Vincent (or insert other destination here)?”
Most European and North American travellers are told they must answer these questions if they wish to pass through and may then be told “why don’t you stay in Barbados? We have this that and the other on offer”, however, those more aware usually answer something like “mind your own business, you are not the government of St Vincent.”
The fact of this unjustified questioning is well known among both the community and government and business leaders in St Vincent, and there are already rumblings of doing something about it.
Now we’ve heard the Minister of Tourism Noel Lynch talk about how the main function of LIAT is to protect Barbados’ investment in being a hub (which makes sense) however unless the Government can facilitate the smooth passage of transiting passengers this 200 million dollar investment (plus whatever we have sunk into LIAT) will be wasted.
And if you think that there is nothing that can be done about it, one of the reasons given by Allan Chastenet (St. Lucia’s Minister of Tourism) for pursuing American Eagle was that transiting passengers were being charged Barbados departure tax. When they are booked through on AA they don’t have to pay. The lesson to be taken from that is that unless Barbados can sort out the legal and institutional frameworks for being a functioning hub, being the prettiest airport in the world will get you nowhere.