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More on Caribbean Airlines

I noted with some small disbelief (but mostly acceptance that what-else-should-we-expect?), the post-Carnival chaos that Caribbean Airlines offered its customers. Better documented by Manicou.

I therefore faced with some trepidation, setting out on my flight with Caribbean Airlines last weekend on a complex route from Barbados to Trinidad to Guyana and return the same way (because can’t fly direct Guyana-Barbados anymore). Getting there was ok. Returning to Guyana. Well. The flight from Guyana still leaves at 5:40 a.m. headed to Miami, but now with a stop in Trinidad rather than Barbados, so all Barbados-bound have to get off and transfer. As do those continuing on to Suriname or New York etc. Fine. Don’t like the additional 2 hours to this previous direct flight, but I can chill in the WiFi enabled departure lounge in the homeland. But. There’s always a but. Just prior to arrival in Trinidad, they announce the passengers en route to Miami have to de-plane after all as there would be an unexpected plane change. Still, not necessarily a problem that should affect my in-transit to Barbados right?

Sigh.

How would I know, that faced with almost an entire plane-load of people now in-transit, all to be dealt with at the little teeny in-transit desk, the Caribbean Airlines would assign ONE person, then grudgingly ANOTHER to deal with us all. Priority given apparently to the Miami passengers at first, then they split and dealt with Miami in one line and all others in another line, checked, processed, sent to wait by the elevators for them to take us up to departures. And we waited. And waited. While the Miami people were herded into a line by the immigration counter. And we waited. All the while thinking, “immigration was empty when I came in, I could have zoomed through and went upstairs myself”. But I waited. Because I am essentially a law-abiding person. And waited some more. While the flight to Barbados was beginning to be called – but hey, surely the airline communicates among itself right?

Sigh.

When they suddenly call us to join the immigration line (not up the elevator directly to departures!!), they send Miami people through then us. Then they just leave us hanging with no direction as to where to go. Ahm…suppose we didn’t know where the departure lounge was from immigration? Usually intransit passengers don’t pass this way, so there are no signs that would help. Since most of us knew, we headed straight to join the long security line, where we were much surprised to hear our names being called. Not an airline rep waiting to take us quickly through the line to board the plane, oh no, that would require attention to customer service and organisation. I rushed through and told the agents at the gate that there are other passengers who were stuck in intransit forever, please don’t close the doors on them.

Sigh. At least my luggage arrived with me. But I was not happy. Just waiting to get into the office and email when…

Surprise, surprise. I got a call from Caribbean Airlines this weekend. Asking about my recent flight and satisfaction with same. Random customer satisfaction survey? No problema. Because without my having to sit and email, I was granted this golden opportunity to air my personal experience on that particular flight. A fairly simple everyday problem that could have been quickly resolved by assigning 1 or 2 other persons and keeping track of your passenger lists. Then they ask whether I have noticed any change in service, good or bad with Caribbean Airlines as opposed to BWee. You mean the name change was supposed to have some consequential effect? Because so far, that’s all it’s been – a name change. And not even a good one!

Remember my first post on this topic, where I doubted the success of any airline using “Caribbean” in its name? Well, Reggie Dumas in today’s Trinidad Express has kindly provided some proof of my belief:

Now, I don’t want to put goat mout’ on anyone or anything, especially seeing that my money as a taxpayer is involved, but I think it’s only fair to point out that airlines with the word “Caribbean” in their names have usually had a less than stellar record. Consider these examples.

TransCaribbean Airways was absorbed by American Airlines in 1970. Caribbean Atlantic Airlines (Caribair) was acquired in 1973 by Eastern, which in turn was acquired by Continental, which dissolved it. Caribbean Airways of Barbados ceased operations in 1987. Our own Air Caribbean went into receivership in 2000, and Southern Caribbean Airways, billed to fly afterwards between Trinidad and Tobago, never got off the ground. Eastern Caribbean Express stopped trading in 2001 after less than one year of flying. West Caribbean Airways folded in September 2005 after two crashes. Most recently, Allen Stanford’s Caribbean Star has fallen; his Caribbean Sun has set. And because I’m concentrating on the word “Caribbean”, I won’t say a thing about Carib Express, which burst like a meteor across the Eastern Caribbean sky in 1995 and then, in the fashion of meteors, disintegrated soon thereafter. I hope I’m wrong, but “Caribbean” doesn’t quite seem to mean what Mr Lok Jack thinks it does. Perhaps a bit of prior market research might have been helpful.

Sigh. The article is called “Airline Branding Questions” and raises some real concerns about the way this whole exercise was undertaken.

So what did I answer when asked about whether I have noticed any change, good or bad, in the service offered by Caribbean Airlines versus BWee? No change really. The friendly people are still friendly. The sour people are still sour. Except of course having to deal with new counter staff who are still learning all the details of checking-in a passenger. If only they’d take advice from the travelers. They still haven’t shown that they know any better.

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5 Comments so far (Add 1 more)

  1. You mean changing the name of the airline didn’t magically change the level of service? Shocking. Truly shocking.

    So, where are you now, anyways?
    :-)

    2. ewe_are_here on March 5th, 2007 at 9:27 pm
  2. barbados
    hmph

    3. Lilandra on March 5th, 2007 at 11:58 pm
  3. Wait, why do they need an in-transit desk? Why not just have signs directing connecting passengers into the departures lounge, where they could then check screens for their gate? It’s not like Piarco has soooo many gates that this would be difficult.

    4. clubsodaandsalt on March 6th, 2007 at 10:48 am
  4. yup – my thoughts exactly – when we already have a boarding pass (same airline transfer) why do we need to check anything again? it may be an airport/immigration requirement where they want us to fill out the E/D forms on arrival even if we are intransit. Some of us did contemplate sneaking upstairs to our gate ourselves…but the law-abiding thing!

    5. chennette on March 6th, 2007 at 10:58 am
  5. Oh loss, Chennette, sometimes I does frighten for we yuh know. How in the world they wouldn’t research that?

    6. Mani on March 12th, 2007 at 9:10 pm

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  1. By Weblinks - 5 March 2007 | Allyuh.com Blog on March 5, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    […] Chenette on a personl account and Reggie Dumas on the branding research or lack thereof and decisions behind Caribbean Airlines […]

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