Following the preliminary report that has said pilot error caused the post landing crash of  Caribbean Airlines flight BW 523 last week in Guyana, I  wondered how likely it is for  an airline to touch down in the middle of a runway it is familiar with and is a part of its daily routes.

There seems to be some underlying careless practices that have been on going at Caribbean Airlines that may have played a factor in the Guyana mishap. The founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications, Felicia Persaud, has voiced publicly her total dissatisfaction with the service of the airline. According to Ms Persaud, while taking a business flight from JFK to Jamaica she encountered exceptionally unpleasant workers and treatment onboard her flight. She claims that even though a booking was made for herself and two colleagues, they were clearly told at check in that it was impossible for them to sit together. In fact, the trio could not even sit in the same general area; however, when they got on board, they discovered that there were more than enough vacant seats for them to sit together.

One of the operational problems of Caribbean Airlines is that passengers are not told their allotted seat at the point of making their bookings. Additionally, since Caribbean Airlines have acquired BWIA, the friendly service and champagne style experience have gone through the door (or has been misplaced in the departure lounge).

Ms Persaud says that the attitude of the Caribbean Airlines crew on board her flight seemed to obviously suggest that they were daring the passengers to come fly with them again. Her flight ended with the business class passengers who had paid a lot more money for a business ticket being forced to wait at the conveyor belt until the economy passengers were finished picking up their luggage.  It is important to state here that Ms Persaud landed in Jamaica just hours before the Caribbean Airlines plane crashed in Guyana.

Such an attitude does not bode well for an airline that is from a region in desperate dependence on tourism and whose company motto is “The warmth of the islands.”

One unhappy bride has revealed that her entire bridal party was left in limbo and stressful frustration when they attempted to seal the deal on booking a flight for the group. After complying with the company by booking months before the flight and paying a deposit to secure seats on the big day, the young woman was told that the seats were never confirmed or booked. She was told that the airline representative who she had dealt with initially was wrong in saying the seats were secured.

On the most important day of her life, the now distraught bride was told that if the group does want to travel on the identified flight they would have to also pay a rate that is higher than what they had locked in the original booking at. Not only that, but now they would have to pay an extra $1000+ right then and there.

Another grain of sand that is in the eyes of Caribbean Airlines customers eyes is the often misplaced pieces of luggage. Yes, all airlines have issues from time to time with misplaced baggage but one Guyanese, Jerrick
Rutherford, feels that the company’s manner of handling such issues is like a slap in the face. Mr Rutherford highlights that when his wife’s bag did not turn up at JFK from Guyana he inquired to its whereabouts. He was told that it would be on the next flight.

The “next flight” came and went.

He tried in vain to contact the relevant company personnel only to be disconnected or excused away. A week or so later, when he spoke to someone whose responsibility was to deal with missing luggage the weary inquirer was told the security or finding of the bag was the sole duty of the person who was working at the time of his wife’s flight.

Mr Rutherford also feels belittled as a person because he claims that Guyana is the only place where he sees passengers traveling with Caribbean Airlines are packed like sardines in an office to make their appointments and bookings. In the small space, there is no privacy and whatever is said becomes public knowledge to anyone in the room at the time.

The above passenger experiences are definitely not good and it places the ball squarely in the court of Caribbean Airlines.  One would hope that they don’t try to fly the skies as though they alone own it and the value customers get from their service is unimportant.

 But I think my biggest alarm with Caribbean Airlines is the F grade that the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has given the airline. It says the company has not sought accreditation; moreover, Caribbean Airlines has a poor track history of responding satisfactorily to customer complaints. The BBB indicates that sometimes the airline does not even respond to it as regards customer complaints. Most of the complaints that have been settled were settled with the help of the BBB and not through the sole efforts of Caribbean Airlines.

So, what is the probability that an environment of complacency and disregard for customer safety and satisfaction has become the norm of Caribbean Airlines and contributed to pilot error in the Guyana crash? The information outlined above does not make it hard to believe that if the officials keep shaking the tree, more will fall out than just pilot error.

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