First, let me commend Guyanese business owners who work diligently to offer low-cost, efficient, aviation service to Guyana. Except for Captain Ronald Reece and Roxanne Reece of Fly Jamaica Airways, who own their fleet of aircraft, others like Travel Span’s Nohar Singh, and Roraima Tours’ Gerry Gouveia, are continually disappointed, despite placing their trust in charter service carriers like Eastern Airlines, and Dynamic Airways, for guaranteed on-time, proficient service.
Issues of mechanical failure, late arrival and departure, lack of permanent positioning at JFK, inexperienced pilots who fail to navigate away from turbulence, lack of piloting skills during a storm, and incompetent customer service, are all failures Guyanese face in their journey home. We are left at the mercy of ill-prepared charters like Eastern Airlines, and Dynamic Airways that continue to disregard, and disrespect travelers who pay their wages.
Case in point, my Christmas trip to the homeland that left a bitter taste in my travel mouth. I recounted my in-bound on Easter Airlines (thank God I arrived safely), and hoped for a better return. I arrived as CJIA, three hours ahead of departure time, checked-in, and was pleasantly surprised with an upgrade to first class — Seat #1F. But before my departure, I was subjected to lackadaisical, incompetent staff at CJIA, who allowed me to pass through immigration and customs, after which, I heard my name over the loud speaker being asked return to luggage check-in over and over again…I had already paid my new departure fee of GYD$5000 (USD$25.00), purchased duty free items, and at the gate waiting on boarding calls. I did not panic, however, because I knew I had nothing ‘foreign’ in my suitcase…except for my seasoned fish, black cake, Salara (redcake) and a few other Christmas delicacies, I had not broken any law.
I hurried back to the scanner, but while my suitcase was being examined, …Again my name was shouted to return…etc…I was like?? I am right here…. my point is…a traveller must be present! as a suitcase passes through the scanner…. that traveler should then be asked to open his / her suitcase there and then if something looks suspicious…not be called back over a loud speaker …I felt like a smuggler.. Of course…I was cleared and now had to go through the same process all over again…Duty Free items passing through the scanner… Fortunately after all of this… the flight left the gate 15 minutes later than its scheduled departure time of 4 pm and soared to the skies.
I have traveled to 26 countries, flying on the A-380, and many other aircraft to get to my many destinations… but never have I ever experienced such a shaky flight on a round trip. Maybe it’s the instability of the B-737 Airbus in the air. David Roberts please enlighten me about the mechanics of this plane. Flight EA. 4213 arrived at JFK 20 minutes ahead of schedule. However, despite, the snowstorm that blanketed JFK, if Eastern had a permanent place at Terminal 7, the plane would not have had to sit on the tarmac from 10:35 pm on Saturday, Jan. 7, when it arrived, until Sunday, Jan. 8, at 4:35 am when passengers finally disembarked.
The pilot was asked to park at a Terminal 4 gate. I must say we had a sightseeing tour of JFK due to the airbus hours long ride along the snowy runways stopping ever so often, before arriving close to the terminal. Passengers then sat for another hour, before a stairway finally arrived, and angry passengers deplaned, and were then transported by bus to the terminal.
Guyanese were furious with disdain at the disrespect they suffered… many claiming that they would never fly Eastern again…comparing the airline to Dynamic… A passenger’s wife suffered a medical condition and missed her appointment. Others recounted their ordeal, receiving only beverage, and later light snacks of cookies, after the long wait on the tarmac. Again, that infamous protein box of nuts, dried fruit, a can of tuna, a few crackers and a pack of Pita chips was up for sale at USD$5.00. A businessperson in first class spoke out about the lousy food he said he received after paying a fare of $1,200.00.
The mood onboard was sad and unfortunate for Guyanese who continue to place their confidence in these carriers that fail them. When it was all said and done, passengers were left to join lines with hundreds of other passengers to clear JFK. By then, I had decided that I would in the future fly a reliable airline…and enjoy the dignified greeting of, “Welcome Home” when I arrive at the TSA booth, and not have my luggage rummaged… I did not hit my pillow until after 9 am on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, more that 12 hours after I was airborne from Guyana.