All airlines carry baggage but Caribbean Airlines (CAL) seems to carry more than most and while all the other airlines carry them in the "hold" or lowest level of the aircraft, CAL's is at the top, flying first class, enjoying the perquisites and privileges and not just piloting the plane but doing it from the back seat. It is almost the same with LIAT except that in some of the planes you have to open the lavatory door from the outside to get to the baggage hold and the wife of one of my friends was rudely disturbed when she tried to use the facilities while the plane was on the ground and the next thing she knew her business was out in the open. I suppose that is the level of transparency you want from CAL and LIAT but plain truth and plane truth are different. For example, why try to kill mosquitoes with a "non-toxic" insecticide?
Last Wednesday I had to leave for Barbados to connect to a CAL flight to Trinidad and then to Guyana. The LIAT flight was delayed "because of the late arrival of incoming aircraft"- which means that the flight was late because it was late. "No problem," I said to myself. I smiled knowing that I had built in extra time to deal with that. On leaving Dominica, supposedly our only stop en route to Barbados, and after being told were heading as scheduled for Barbados, just 50 minutes away, we were suddenly re-routed to St Lucia. In anger, knowing I would be late for my connection, I sent an email to LIAT's CEO, Ian Brunton, who continues to call himself a Captain but because he has a "fleet" – never mind they are propeller planes – behaves as if he is an Admiral.
I knew that CAL was going to close the flight just around the time of my arrival and if I had to struggle to get my luggage out to the CAL desk my trip was in vain and my money wasted. I was first in the immigration line and the very helpful Immigration Officer really hurried to process my passport and directed me to the LIAT counter in the arrival hall where I met Olivia. She took charge. She got her colleague Shadron to call the CAL counter while she put things in place. I took my bag off the baggage carousel and Olivia and I hurried through the back route to the CAL departure gate. Everyone tried to help her help me – security, immigration and two CAL ladies, Francia and Caroline.
Fortunately for me, there is a kinship at the worker level of CAL, LIAT and the company that handles their routine matters that is a lesson for the big-ups. One of the CAL ladies rushed with my boarding pass from the front desk miles away. The other organised a tag for my bag. I had my seating sorted out for the Trinidad – Guyana leg just as the boarding announcement was made. I would never have made it to the front desk of CAL before the flight was closed.
The question is why are these people ignored although the airlines keep preaching "customer service"? What I received was the best customer service experience I ever had in almost one million miles of flying. Contrast that with my article on losing my luggage and the truly superb response by a young CAL employee, Junior Angus, in Antigua. Almost two weeks later he had no idea that anyone had praised him for his efforts. Nobody apart from me had bothered despite the article with his name in it appearing in the major regional newspapers that run my column.
Once as a young man I was liming in a rum shop with my friends. We had ordered a "half" of rum. One of our buddies who had just got paid, came up and said grandly, "Give them a bottle. I will pay the indifference." In the case of CAL and LIAT, they will pay, not the indifference, but for the indifference.