For years Vincentians have had only one air carrier to transport them in and out of St Vincent and the Grenadines. While it is true that other regional islands have their share of limited air access, the market is beginning to open. But not quick enough.
I am not a very frequent traveller but on every occasion I have had to use the service of LIAT there has always been something that made the flight less than enjoyable. At age seven, the very first time I set foot on an aeroplane, I had to camp out at Piarco International. Years later, I have had to endure other misadventures with our national airline.
I recall trying to depart SVG a couple of years ago when I turned up excitedly to board a flight. It was a Friday and I was thrilled to be given time off and was looking forward to flying free as a bird when one of the immigration oifficers asked me (now this is like 6am), “Are you sure you want to go in as yet?” When I enquired it turned out that the pilots were on strike.
I felt the gods were against me. I mean, here am I, a spasmodic flyer, and the pilots chose my day to strike! What are the odds?
To make a long story short, instead of leaving SV on Friday first flight, I never left until 1 pm on Saturday!
Within more recent times, after arriving in the land of the flying fish for my scheduled appointment at the US embassy, lo and behold, no luggage. LIAT workers on the ground there were –you guessed it–on strike. And you know that was the only hitch in an otherwise royal travel experience?
On another occasion our Vincentian contingent was waiting for our flight at St Georges. From looking at the itinerary of flights posted, I realized that our particular flight was not listed at all. All other passengers were taken by their on-time flights and soon we alone occupied the departure lounge.
Upon making inquiries after our departure time had long past, the officials told us that they had no information about our flight! About 20 minutes later they used the PA to tell us that the flight was delayed. Just that. It was delayed.
But my greatest adventure with LIAT has been what was supposed to be a one day visit to the Bamboo in TNT. I was so naively confident in my airline that I walked with no luggage whatsoever. I mean after all, Im confirmed on the last flight in, right?
Several hours later, the Vincy contingent realized we were not hearing anything. We waited. Other passengers were departing. We waited. The departure area was dwindling in its population. We waited. But what is this at all?
Then a sigh of relief. Guess what? A PA is made for all Vincentians to report to the announcer’s booth. There we were told that our flight turned back in mid-air due to technical issues.
It was then I saw what that old commercial was trying to say with its catch phrase: “Don’t let hunger happen to you.”
Eventually we are taken to a hotel. It was like after 11pm, after checking in about 530 pm. Early the next morning I’m up. Took a shower, and took off my expensive gold ring as a precaution, and in my haste to get to the airport at 4 am I forgot all about the ring.
Fasten your seatbelts for the next part. I recall feeling pleased to be the first on board this larger LIAT craft that had the name St Vincent and the Grenadines etched along its side. It was 530 am. Fine weather. Happy on-board conversations.
At take off the female captain announced that we will take passengers in Grenada in about half hour. After about 40 minutes we started to wonder what about Grenada. The captain soon announced that the Grenada stop had been cancelled.
Better yet we thought. We will get to SVG faster. I recall seeing the lovely cotton candy clouds and looking at Union Island.
Then came the captain’s voice. We had to go back to Grenada.
Again, I saw the effects of hunger and delayed home-coming.
Now, we were told we’d be staying on the ground in Grenada for just 10 minutes. We touched down there at exactly 6:50 am. When we took off it was 7:30 am.
I never heard so many bad words and expletives aboard an aircraft. Even the flight attendant and captain were visibly and orally upset.
When we did land at ET Joshua, almost every Vincentian echoed the sentiments that they will never ride LIAT again.
I felt that way, too, but what choice did we have?