Tag Archives: Barbados Tourism

Airbnb transforming tourism and hotel industry: but there will be casualties

airbnb barbados

Airbnb Barbados search returns over 200 rentals! Click photo for larger

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

If I had mentioned the name Airbnb a few months ago, I wonder, hand-on-heart, how many people could claim that they knew much about the company.

Perhaps hardly surprisingly, as not that long ago it sold novelty cereal boxes to stay afloat to now emerge as a major threat to the hotel industry and ‘close to becoming one of the world’s most valuable startups’.

If quoted plans materialise, private-equity firm TPG and boutique investment advisors, Dragoneer Investment Group, who are already in advanced talks will raise capital to put a value on what has been described as ‘the upstart home-rental site’ of US$10 billion.

Mutual funds are being sourced through the strategic research platforms of entities including T Rowe Price Group and Fidelity and are also in discussion to join the group.

To put that it context, the combined share worth of Airbnb would equate to US$2 billion more than the entire InterContinental hotel chain. Continue reading

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Is Barbados special enough to attract Chinese tourists?

Chinese tourists at Cricket World Cup 2007

Chinese tourists at Cricket World Cup 2007

Bridgetown is a long way from Beijing!

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Much discussion has taken place over the last year or so about the importance of attracting Chinese visitors to Barbados, and few could disagree that it is a potential massive market that cannot be ignored.

Let us, though, take a minute to look at the practical reality.

Using Great Circle (shortest route by air) distances, Beijing is a mind-boggling 8,775 miles from Barbados. Shanghai is some 9,381. Even if current aircraft could fly those distances non-stop, it entails a minimum flying time of 17 to 19 hours and then there are all sorts of crewing and equipment challenges.

Air China is presently the only airline to operate non-stop services from Beijing to New York (JFK) with11 flights weekly by B777-200 aircraft and a flight time of around 13 hours. China Eastern Airlines operate Shanghai to JFK at least daily.

In an extensive interview recently, when questioned about direct flights into the Caribbean, Dr. Zhihang Chi, Vice President and General Manager of North America for Air China stated that was not an option. However, he said ‘that China’s flag carrier would instead be targeting more flights to North American hubs and striking up partnerships with local carriers to funnel traffic into the Caribbean’.  Continue reading

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Loveridge: We should spend our tourism marketing budget where it will do the most good.

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

According to figures released by the Barbados Statistical Service, January 2014 recorded the second highest long stay visitor arrivals from the United Kingdom in the last 12 years, with 18,134 persons.

Only January 2009 exceeded this number with 20,911 persons.

Having said this, there is still a mountain to climb especially if you look at the situation in perspective; this lone month has to take into account recent past performance.

In 2012 our single largest market registered a decline in every consecutive month of that year, ending with an overall fall of 15,631 stay-over visitors. 2013 finished with another 4,786 arrivals down over 2012.

So over the last two years we have already more than 20,000 ‘lost’ British visitors to make up for. February 2014 United Kingdom figures continued with what hopefully will be an ongoing trend with a 10.2 per cent increase when compared with the identical month a year ago.

Sadly though, the decline across other markets resulted in an overall fall, registering the lowest stay-over numbers for any February during the last 11 years. More than any, the second month of the calendar is often the barometer of whether the winter season is going to end successfully or not.

Brits and Europeans stay longer, spend more!

We know that the ‘Brits’ and Europeans stay longer, therefore it is reasonable to assume they spend more. Based on this knowledge, should we not be spending a larger proportion of precious marketing resources in this market? Continue reading

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Forbidden questions about Extraordinary tax concessions to Butch Stewart’s Sandals Resorts

“I had no intention of offending anyone.”

Adrian Loveridge

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

While it was very tempting to write on any subject this week other than the ‘Butcherisation’ I received at the recent Barbados Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon, that would have been the easy way out and certainly not in my character.

First for the record, I had no intention of offending anyone.

In fact I made it abundantly clear in my opening remarks that many of us greatly admire Mr. Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart and the hotel empire he has spearheaded. I am not so remotely naive to believe that any one person can achieve this alone and a great part of the success is attracting the right people around you. This equally applies whether it is a small or large business.

Perhaps what surprises me more than anything is that a person who has received everything he has asked for within weeks and possibly more than we are aware of, yet was so unwilling to respond to legitimate concerns. Especially, while so many who actually live on Barbados have toiled to build the destination’s tourism industry over several decades while being consistently denied similar extraordinary concessions.  Continue reading

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British tourist complains of dangerous bus rides “Lucky to be alive”

Barbados Bus Accidents

Dear Barbados Free Press,

So sorry to hear of yet another serious bus crash here in Barbados. I am not in the least surprised as my husband and I who are on holiday from England think ourselves lucky to be alive after a horrendous yellow bus ride last Friday!! We had lunch at Mullins Beach and were returning to Holetown when we refused to get on one bus as it was well overloaded.

We got on the next bus to find ourselves being shouted at to move back up the bus to let more people on. There was no room to move and we hung on for grim death, even the fare collector was hanging out the door!  Continue reading

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Definition of Irony: Fat Sandals Resort Chairman Butch Stewart chides Barbados hoteliers to complain about overtaxed tourism sector!

Sandals Butch Stewart

Butch wins! Disproving “Too much weight on a race horse, it can’t win.”

Nice work if you can get it: Stewart chides other Barbados hoteliers for not getting the same tax concessions as Sandals…

Sandals’ Chairman Butch Stewart says…

The fact is if you put too much weight on a race horse, it can’t win. When you burden an industry by overtaxing, you cannot do enough business. The real fallout is not so much the fact that you are not doing business is the condition of the properties because there is not enough money between the competitive rates today, paying taxes and at the same time being able to improve, expand and modernise the hotel.”

Noting that cruise ships are able to avoid the same tax levels as land-bound tourism providers, he nonetheless stated, “The cruise ships are a vital part of the tourism industry; it is not the cruise ship that is at fault. The growth of the cruise sector has to do with not having to pay taxes – taxes and exports don’t mix.”

In terms of concession, the hotelier highlighted, “Our criteria is transparency, so everyone knew we got concessions. In Grenada we spent [money] developing and building a hotel that we would not have been able to do if we were not able to look at the long-term 25 years of concessions and spend money based on long-term thoughts. We plan to do much the same here in Barbados because as we have a long-term view.

“The same way a company negotiates with government and gets concessions I believe that the business community, if you believe as strongly as I believe, that anything to do with export taxation impacts business, you have a responsibility to do [or] say something about it.”

Adrian Loveridge says…

Put it in simple terms. For my hotel to buy a 750ml bottle of Johnnie Walker Scotch would cost me sixty US dollars. Sandals are able to pay ten dollars.

“Unilateral concessions to Sandals immediately destabilized the other 120 hotels on the islands, not to mention the condos, villas, apartments and guest houses. Completely destabilized the industry.”

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New bill creates Barbados Tourism Product Authority and Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Currently before Parliament are the Barbados Tourism Product Authority and Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., bills. Not surprisingly, considering the protracted time it has taken so far getting these long promised changes in legislation to this stage, many industry partners may have forgotten about them altogether.

Given the infrequent holding of Parliament, the late starts, early finishes, extended lunch periods and volume of none constitutional subjects discussed, whether it is now realistic to have the required readings of these bills in both houses and passed into law by the stated 2nd April 2014 date seems rather ambitious.

The Barbados Tourism Authority as we have known it will cease to exist and be replaced by the two new entities. What does this mean in reality?

Will some current employees be severed and if so how many? Government’s stated moratorium, ‘no new hiring’ will surely limit staffing the new statutory corporations – so what is the plan?

Reading through the documentation contained on the Parliament’s website, it would also appear that all the substantial debt of the present Barbados Tourism Authority will be transferred to one or both new companies. How will this impact on budgets and spending?

Are there now to be two boards with two Chairman, two Deputy Chairman, two Presidents/CEO’s, two luxury SUV vehicles, multiple first class travel allowances, two administration offices etc., and what will become of the current ‘consultants’ employed by the BTA after the transition? Will either or both organisations be mandated to operate on performance based criteria and obliged to publish their annual audited accounts on a timely basis?

So many unanswered questions! Continue reading

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Sandals 9 month closure another blow to Barbados economy and employment

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

So entirely contrary to all the heady rhetoric that the introduction of Sandals brand will drive additional airlift: in fact the exact opposite will happen from their closure on 1st April for major renovations.

At least until the re-opening slated for December 2014.

Quoting their own projected occupancy of an average of 85 per cent with a typical stay of 7 nights and two persons per room, that’s almost 500 lost airline seats per week or a mind boggling 16,000 plus by the end of this year.

Will this further destabilise the remaining carriers that continue to service Barbados and lead to yet more airlines cutting routes or reducing capacity? Tour operators, already unable to match demand with the high cost of doing business here, are considering switching flights to other destinations where they can glean a profit.

Once again citizens are left speculating whether our Government was aware and factored in the almost nine months closure with hundreds of hospitality employees being thrown on the unemployment pile, before granting unilateral extraordinary concessions to the Sandals group.

Perhaps they calculated the NIS and income tax contributions collected from local construction workers hired for refurbishment would more than make up for this. Because clearly, the state is not going to collect other taxes like VAT and import duties from Sandals as they have all been waived.  Most materials used will also be imported, so a substantial percentage of the estimated US$65 million project will simply re-export foreign exchange (FX).

Several other issues also have to be considered: The lost revenue to our Direct Tourism Services with included package components like golf green fees, catamaran, diving etc., let alone secondary spending that 16,000 plus extra visitors would have generated on submarine excursions, taxis, car rental attractions, activities and shopping. The list goes on and on. Continue reading

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Adrian Loveridge looks at government spin on the disaster of Barbados Tourism

Sandals isn’t paying VAT to Barbados

Government has a 10 point Tourism plan? Really?

In four years the Government of Barbados hasn’t paid VAT refunds to Loveridge’s Peach and Quiet Hotel.

“Water is up by 62%. Electricity up by 70%…

What government in their right mind increases land taxes by 50% in a recession? Tell me!”

On the incredible tax and other concessions given to Sandals…

“Put it in simple terms. For my hotel to buy a 750ml bottle of Johnnie Walker Scotch would cost me sixty US dollars. Sandals are able to pay ten dollars.”

“Unilateral concessions to Sandals immediately destabilized the other 120 hotels on the islands, not to mention the condos, villas, apartments and guest houses. Completely destabilized the industry.”

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American tourist: Barbados the best vacation ever! The locals really made our trip.

Dear Barbados Free Press,

I found your blog as I was deciding which Caribbean island to visit.  After much deliberation we landed on Barbados.  Our trip went far and beyond our expectations!  We experienced much of the Bajan culture and it was with no contest the best vacation we have ever been on.  The locals really made our trip, anyone we talked to was extremely friendly and we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them.

Anyway I made this video of our trip and thought you may want to see it.  Please feel free to use the video however you like, I’m not looking for any compensation I just want to give back to the beautiful island!  I sure hope it helps with tourism because Barbados was incredible.

Best wishes to every Bajan,

Kyle Lawson, Madison, Wisconsin

Kyle’s blog shows how he made his Bajan video – all the tricks and techniques

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Did the Thomson Airways’ Boeing 787 Dreamliner push up tourist arrivals in Barbados?

Is there some room for cautious optimism in our tourism performance?

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Following 21 consecutive months of long stay visitor decline, January 2014 recorded a modest increase of 3.2 per cent when compared with the same month in 2013.

It is however important to keep this in absolute perspective…

January 2013 was down 8.2 per cent (4,331 people) when measured against January 2012 and unless we finish the end of February, 7,972 land based visitors up – we will still be woefully behind the identical period last year.

The growth largely came from the United Kingdom with 1,455 more long-stay visitors over the same period in January 2013. This in itself is encouraging because as frequently pointed out, the British and Europeans tend to stay longer – therefore usually contributing a higher per capita spend.

The higher UK arrivals were largely driven by two charter airlines.

Thomas Cook operating a new service and Thomson adding increased capacity with recently introduced B787 Dreamliner aircraft. Passengers off these flights would have included a significant number of cruise and stay holidaymakers, but both carriers offered many seats on sale at substantially reduced fares, which in some cases were less than GBPounds 300 return, including all taxes.

With such a diverse destination and a myriad range of accommodation options, these last minute ‘bargains’ present an opportunity to fill some beds at short notice.

Scheduled carrier Virgin Atlantic carried fewer passengers on the Gatwick service, but more from Manchester, while British Airways (BA) had a net gain. Again, to emphasis that these comparisons are all based on the differential between January 2013 and 2014.

Virgin’s numbers must also take into account dramatically reduced capacity as a result of equipment change from a daily B747 service to mostly the smaller A330 planes on the London route.

BA and Virgin also held an extended seat sale which expired on 28th January, with some of the lowest legacy fares available in the entire Caribbean for the remainder of 2014. Hopefully this resulted in substantial bookings, which will positively impact the arrival numbers later this year.

No Growth in the USA market       Continue reading

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Barbados tourism industry having a wonderful year: lowest arrivals in a decade.

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

We are now midway through the peak winter tourism season and it is small wonder that the general populous becomes confused or even bemused when trying to monitor exactly how the industry is performing.

Especially when there are a number of proclamations emanating from our policymakers, who many may feel should be better informed.

Two of these recent utterings really stand out!

The first when a Minister of Government stated in the foreign press that we have had a good start to the season, when in fact December 2013 recorded the lowest long stay visitor arrivals for that month during the last eleven years.

Meanwhile, while accepting the numbers are down, the actual Minister of Tourism partially justifying the dismal sector performance by stating ‘value-added’ is up, totally contradicting the Governor of The Central Bank in his latest video report on our economic condition, who clearly revealed that factually, it is down.

If these incidents were rare or isolated, perhaps it could be just brushed off as possible journalistic misquoting, but the latest ones come after a long list of heady predictions that simply have not materialized.

Last year these included ‘a resounding success’, ‘upbeat about arrivals’ and ‘extremely strong’, when referring to Crop Over and July. Later in 2013, ‘it is already a November to remember’ and ‘November had been one of the best Barbados had seen in a while’.

In reality, both months set new records over the last decade for recording the lowest stay-over visitors for comparable periods. Continue reading

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Is there anyone awake at the Barbados Tourism Authority?

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Some months ago the Barbados Tourism Authority finally published a list of licensed hotels and a limited number of other accommodation providers. Sadly, I only saw it in the press and failed to understand why the agency did not post this latest listing on the official website, where the majority of the end users could access this information at any time, prior to booking.

There seems absolutely no point having a national website unless it is maintained. A simple example is that three months after being granted unilateral extraordinary concessions Sandals Barbados does not yet appear on the visitbarbados.org, accommodation section.

In fact, the site is so far out-of-date the location is still shown as Casuarina Beach Club, even ignoring its brief history as a Couples Resort!

It is quite frankly staggering the array of alternative accommodation that is widely advertised on the internet, with absolutely no indication whether these properties meet the same insurance, fire and health requirements that our registered lodging offerings are required under law to comply with.

Tax avoidance or Tax Fraud… where is the line?

What is also alarming is the number of establishments that make no mention of VAT (Value Added Tax).  Continue reading

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Bloggers can make a difference – Sandals now serving Bajan rum… but value delivery eludes our tourism industry

“Value-for-money is probably the most discussed subject amongst our cherished guests. Many simply cannot understand why a piece of locally available fish cannot be cooked, garnished and served in moderate surroundings for around BDS$25-30.”

Killing the messenger – or listening!

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

The blogs can of course be a double edged sword. The anonymity allows, if the contributor wishes, comments to be made without risk of targeted personal attacks and political labeling, while still being able to express an opinion whether constructive or not.

Sadly, if you chose not to hide behind the veil of ‘anonymous’ it holds the risk of the messenger being castigated, rather than evaluating any merit in the message itself.

For those of us who hold democracy dear and have personally experienced alternative regimes, it goes with the territory and if it helps maintain responsible freedom of speech then personally I have no problem.

A recent blogger, writing under the name of ‘Fisheye’ put forward 16 points to improve our tourism offerings.

Online Immigration Forms… Why not?

To me, one suggestion especially stood out and that was to allow our visitors to complete the required immigration form online.

Bearing in mind the rapid trend in online transactions, whether for banking, bill payment, shopping, airline or hotel check-in, car rental registration or whatever, it seems a very simple but effective way to capture important marketing information.

It may also speed up the collection of this information to allow the Barbados Statistical Service (BSS) to make it publicly available in a timelier manner. It can often take the BSS ages to post arrival information on their website and even then, months like August 2013 are not available at all.

Compounding the difficulty in accessing up-to-date information is the fact that the Ministry of Tourism does not currently have a functioning website.

Other ‘Fisheye’ suggestions included the issuing of local driver’s licenses at the Barbados Tourism Authority’s (BTA) airport office and ensuring widespread availability of lower priced SIM cards to save our visitors from expensive roaming charges. Continue reading

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We need to embrace airline loyalty programmes to fill almost a million empty hotel rooms

American-Airlines-Dallas-Barbados

“One of the reasons why I am so passionate about airline loyalty programmes is because existing marketing initiatives in the USA simply have not worked.”

Barbados is losing ground in our second largest tourist market

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

The merger of American Airlines and US Airways has now pushed the combined frequent flyer membership above the 100 million mark.

Put another way, that’s almost 33 per cent of the world’s third most populous country, the United States.

In any market it would be difficult to persistently ignore a huge segment of our second largest source of long stay visitors, but that is what Barbados has done. It defies belief, especially during times of economic challenges when holiday budgets can be among the first to suffer. It may also partially explain why some of our Caribbean neighbours have overtaken us in American long-stay visitors.

Sadly, the loss of the American Airlines direct service out of New York will further restrict the potential, previously having lost Dallas/Fort Worth and San Juan, plus Philadelphia with US Airways.

But with the miles now totally interchangeable between the two carriers, we still have daily service from Miami and currently once a week from Charlotte. Whether the re-organisation will result in a downsizing of the North Carolina hub and curtailment of this flight remains to be seen.

Route changes have yet to be announced, so ‘we’ are not fully aware of any new opportunities that it may present, but that should not stop us from exploiting what already exists.

One of the reasons why I am so passionate about airline loyalty programmes is because existing marketing initiatives in the USA simply have not worked. There has been no overall long stay visitor arrival increase from this market for six years, so surely it’s long overdue that alternative strategies are at least tried.  Continue reading

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Ralph Taylor explains the Barbados tourism disaster

I’m about half way through this video of SoCo Hotel owner Ralph Taylor talking to a BLP meeting last Sunday the 12th of January 2014.

Mr. Taylor tells it like it is, but so far his analysis is missing two factors:

1/ There’s no money left after 20 years of BLP and DLP larceny, neglect and stupidity.

2/ Investors aren’t staying away in droves just because of the numbers: they know that Barbados governments have burned many foreign investors through broken promises and non-payment.

Nonetheless, it’s worth listening to Mr. Taylor, who starts in with how bad things have been in Barbados in terms of declining hotel rooms (and thus declining investment) for the last 34 years…

Number of Hotel Rooms 1980 and 2014

Country      1980        2014      Average Growth Hotel Rooms

Jamaica        10,000    30,000    486% for Jamaica, Cuba, St. Lucia

Cuba              7,226       57,000

St. Lucia        1,245       4,900

Barbados       6,680     5,400      -20%

“We are still not getting new hotel development. We must ask ourselves, why are we not getting this new development?

The reality is that investors are looking firstly for adequate returns on capital, and then all other factors are considered.

When there was a big hue and cry over the concessions to Sandals, my contribution to that debate is that I have long advocated that tourism is an export industry, and therefore its input costs must be free of duty.  Continue reading

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Barbados Sandals deal is good for Sandals – but hostile to existing tourism businesses and suppliers

beaches by sandals

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner.

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner.

It is now more than two months since the former Casuarina Beach Resort was re-branded as Sandals Barbados and Government granted the company unprecedented extraordinary concessions, creating probably the single largest unlevel playing field the private sector tourism industry has encountered in its long history.

Timing sometimes can be everything. Following nearly two years of long stay visitor decline, the anticipated revenue generated through the critical two week Christmas and New Year period perhaps has never been so pivotal to the survival of the industry as we enter 2014.

On reflection, it appears to me that there has been a degree of gambling behind the recent decisions made. Few can doubt that the Stewart family has built an enviable hotel empire with all the trappings of success, including a private executive jet with a replacement value of over US$20 million.

Yet it must have been a huge calculated risk to acquire a property that clearly was not up to the standards of other Sandals hotels and so close to Christmas.

Reading carefully through the initial hundred or so TripAdvisor guest reviews the phrase that stands out, almost above all others is ‘in-transition’. Time will tell what collateral damage, whether permanent or temporary has been done to the ‘brand’ and consequentially, the destination. Continue reading

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BREAKING: Lucky JetBlue passengers stuck in Barbados for an extra week!

Updated January 3, 2014 6:50pm: Business Insider received our email and changed the headline to correctly read “Barbados” and not “Bermuda”

jetblue barbados

Let’s make a potential ‘disaster’ into a worldwide opportunity!

Bridgetown Barbados, January 3, 2014 5:08pm

This is just breaking on an Australian newswire Business Insider Australia where it is reported that severe weather in the Northeast USA has caused the cancellation of 5,000 flights over two days. It is minus -47 degrees Celsius in Canada and Northern USA!

The Australian news service interviews a few folks “stuck in Barbados” as if this is a negative. Actually they called us “BERMUDA” !!!

Barbados Tourism Authority… where are you?

There are probably hundreds or maybe thousands of tourists that are going to have flights home delayed. What is the BTA doing to ensure these people are looked after? Are we organising any events for them? Is the Prime Minister or Tourism Minister on board for some visits?

And let’s correct that headline error of “Bermuda”!!!!

Wuhloss! This is not a disaster… it is an opportunity for the world’s press to report on how we welcomed and looked after these folks! Where’s the rum producers? A few bottles here and there would do wonders! Double the tours, keep them happy.

OR… have the tourists go back home telling how they were “stuck in Barbados” instead of saying how it was too bad the weather socked in, but what a wonderful time they had.

Our choice how we handle this: BTA… where are you?

From Business Insider Australia…

JetBlue Stranded A Bunch Of People In Barbados And May Not Get Them Home For A Week (BARBADOS!)

After a snowstorm that hit the Northeast and led airlines to cancel over 5,000 U.S. flights in two days, an unlucky group of JetBlue passengers is stuck in Barbados.

Some of them may not get back to New York for a week.

Passenger Lee Cochran told Business Insider that after her Friday afternoon flight to JFK was cancelled, JetBlue rebooked her on a January 9 flight. Her sister got a January 12 trip home.

Cochran asked about the possibility of flying to another city or being rebooked on another airline, but nothing worked out. Continue reading

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