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Frustrated ferry passengers at Piarco

Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Hiccups for PATT, CAL
Ferry passengers wait at Caribbean Airlines’ domestic counter at the Piarco International Airport yesterday. PICTURE RHONDOR DOWLAT

Scores of ferry passengers, believed to be the last batch shuttled to the Piarco International Airport from the Port of Port-of-Spain, were up to late last evening waiting on standby for a flight to Tobago after a frustrating day.

Yesterday was day one of a Caribbean Airlines-implemented initiative meant to bring immediate relief to passengers affected by the pulling of the T&T Express from the sea bridge. But there were many upset passengers at Piarco yesterday, as they were made the wait long hours of standby for available spots on flights.

At 10.58 am yesterday, two PTSC Deluxe Coach buses arrived at the Port-of-Spain Ferry Terminal to shuttle confirmed ferry passengers to Piarco.

One of the ferry passengers, who only identified himself as a member of the T&T Defence Force, said he got to the terminal shortly after 6 am and was told by the cashier to proceed to the manager for further instructions. He said his ferry ticket was signed and he was told he had to wait for the 11 am shuttle bus to the airport. However, he said the buses did reach on time and did not leave the Ferry Terminal until 2.15 pm.

When ferry passengers Lorenzo Daniel and his mother got off the bus at Piarco, they were told to go to counter two for their plane tickets. They were then directed to counter 38 where their names were placed on a standby list. However, at the 3.25 pm only two standby passengers got on the next flight. This stirred murmurs of frustration among the group of standby passengers, most of whom were ferry passengers.

One shouted: “We asking for information and not getting any. I thought they shuttling we to a plane...didn’t know is standby they have we here till God know when now.”

At the subsequent standby call at 4.35 pm, six standby ferry passengers were called for the next available flight.

Businessman James Davis-Lowry, who owns a guest house, described the entire system from sea bridge to air bridge as sad and unfortunate. He lamented how some hotels had been forced to send home almost 80 per cent of staff as they were getting no guests.

“I have accommodation for 25 guests and the majority of time in the past two years since this fiasco has been very bad business,” Davis-Lowry said.

Speaking on the issue, CAL corporate communications head Dionne Ligoure, who also visited the Domestic Terminal, said the airline had jets along with ATRs servicing the air bridge all day long and admitted that one of the jets “left for Tobago with space.” But Ligoure, not wanting to cast any blame to anyone, did admit shuttled ferry passengers arrived late at the airport, which contributed to the standby list at 4.30pm being over 30 listed names. She reassured that the airline was doing its best to have all standby passengers accommodated on flights at the quickest time possible. At 6.40 pm there was still a large group of standby passengers at the counter.

According to the T&T Inter-Island Transportation Company’s manager, marketing and public relations Vilma Lewis-Cockburn, the T&T Express was taken out of service for safety issues. The T&T Spirit, which was expected to resume the service on March 13, also had some issues to addressed and is now expected to resume operations on or before March 22.

In the interim, CAL said it is working closely with PATT to ensure that some 2,922 people holding confirmed ferry tickets for the initial period March 13-22 will be flown between the islands at no additional cost to the passengers.

The airline was also finalising arrangements to obtain an additional aircraft specifically dedicated to the air bridge which will provide 1,088 extra seats daily.


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