LIAT Airlines fails to properly take care of another unaccompanied child

Liat Airline

When my wife expressed her dismay that LIAT would not deliver our son until the next day, she was told “at least he got to see another country”.

He arrived the following day at noon having not even had a glass of water for the day!

We eventually got the suitcase on Wednesday around 63 hours after it was due.

Submitted by Sam Tucker

One would have thought that after the recent bad publicity that LIAT received regarding “losing a child” that they would have gone all out in training their staff to never let this kind of thing happen again. But apparently LIAT enjoy the negative publicity, so here is some more for you.

My 12 year old stepson was scheduled to fly on LIAT from Guyana on Sunday 28th July to Tortola, leaving at 3.10pm from Ogle airport. The flight finally took off at 4.41 the routing was via Barbados, Antigua, St.Kitts and St.Maarten before supposedly reaching to Tortola at 9.50pm. At about 5.45pm I was tracking the flight on http://www.flightaware.com (the LIAT website was saying that the flight had taken off 3 hours later than what the current time was – apparently and clearly they are on a different timezone to the rest of the Caribbean) I realized that the flight was now so delayed that it couldn’t possibly make it to Tortola before immigration and customs call it quits for the night.

I called LIAT at Beef Island, got halfway through my sentence when the very rude lady on the phone said “wait”, I waited for 7 minutes before hanging up, of course when I re-dialed the lines were engaged. I tried several more times to call but each time the lines were tied up.

So I tried to call Antigua using the phone on the LIAT website, of course it was silly of me to expect an answer there.

I continued to monitor on flight aware, but thought there must be some error as the 512 leaving Antigua took off about 20 mins prior to the inbound 512 arriving.  Knowing that even that one had left late from Antigua we proceeded to the airport for the scheduled arrival of my stepson. I suggested to my wife that before we wait for the flight to arrive and everyone get through customs and immigration that she she should enquire with an agent if her son was actually on the flight as I really couldn’t see anyway how he could be. Of course, it would be silly to think that LIAT would actually have anyone manning their desks at a time when an inbound flight is due in. She waited for nearly 20 minutes before anyone came out to assist the few customers that were there waiting. She was given a piece of paper and told her son was in Antigua, the piece of paper contained the name of a hotel and a number to call. When my wife expressed her dismay she was told “at least he got to see another country”. When we called that number we were advised that they had no idea whom we were talking about.

We went back to the LIAT desk and again had to wait another 20 mins before a lady came out, she very rudely told me she couldn’t deal with me at that time as a flight had just landed, I waited a few more minutes for the young man to appear. I expressed my frustrations to Alex Logan who was on duty, he was the most helpful person there that evening but clearly frustrated that he had to deal with so many complaints. He called the hotel back and was advised that they were still checking in LIAT refugees so we should call back in another 30 mins. I asked for the names of the other staff that were working that shift at Beef Island but was told that he couldn’t give out their names. It was at least one of the females on duty that had put me on indefinite hold and another that told me to wait at the desk.

We called the hotel again and was eventually able to talk with our son/stepson as well as the LIAT agent that was assigned to sleep in the hotel room next to him. She advised he was currently eating some food and she would call in the morning when he is on board the flight. Of course that never happened! He arrived the following day at noon having not even had a glass of water for the day!

We eventually got the suitcase on Wednesday at 12.30 (around 63 hours after it was due to reach) after numerous calls to Beef Island and numerous times of being put on hold, on one occasion my wife asked the man on the phone what his name was and his response was “I cant understand what you are saying, the phone line is really bad” even though he had heard her fine for the previous few minutes.

I fully understand that things go wrong and incidents happen but LIAT could avoid a lot of the negative publicity and frustrated customers by providing customer service to all of us it is not hard. Here is what should have happened in my opinion.

Guyana:               Given that he was travelling all the way to Tortola and the flight from Guyana was so late in taking off LIAT should have denied boarding in Guyana, knowing that a 12 year old was going to get stuck somewhere by himself. Yes it would have been frustrating to be told he cant get on the plane but it would have been the responsible thing to do.

Barbados:            At this point it would have been very clear that the child was going to be left somewhere – the parents or grandmother should have been informed.

Antigua:               As soon as they realized they were going to put him in a hotel the mother or grandmother should have been called and informed.
Antigua should have someone to answer the phone, or perhaps the website information is incorrect like it is for LIAT in Tortola.
Let us know that he was on the flight out of Antigua and would have a few hours in St.Maarten
He should have been given a sandwich and drink at some point of his morning journey

St.Kitts:                He was only there for a few minutes in transit so the best experience of this debacle goes to his 15 minute stay in St.Kitts

St.Maarten:        Advise Beef Island that the delayed child was on the way so the awaiting parents would know

Beef Island:        Answer the phone.
Don’t leave people on indefinite hold and therefore tying up the lines for anyone else to call in
Be friendly and courteous
Have somebody manning the desk when flights are due in rather than hiding in the backroom avoiding customers
They would have known that a young child was travelling up (we paid for the extra service), they should have informed us rather than us having to seek them and find out what was happening.
Call and let us know he was on the way.
Call and let us know that the bag was being searched for.

It all boils down to simple customer service that really doesn’t cost much in terms of time and effort. Instead the staff (and management) having this attitude of not giving a care about the customers that pay their salaries. I look forward to receiving an official response from the head of LIAT on this with a clear plan of how they will be improving their customer service – I guess that could be seen a challenge to them! But I really also look forward to the day when there is more competition within the Caribbean and we are not forced to fly with LIAT or stay home!

28 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Barbados

28 responses to “LIAT Airlines fails to properly take care of another unaccompanied child

  1. Pingback: LIAT Airlines fails to properly take care of another unaccompanied child | Barbados Blog !

  2. LIAT should be ASHAMED of its treatment of this young traveller and I sincerely hope that a full apology is forthcoming and that procedures are put in place post haste to prevent such an occurrence again.

  3. Mother of Two

    I do not condone the handling by LIAT.

    My children children have flown unattended at age 12… non-stop or direct flights with no change of planes. At 13 and 14, they flew unattended via less linear routes.

    Unless this child was severely handicapped, where was the parental involvement BEFORE the first flight? Didn’t the child have a debit/credit card and lists of phone numbers and dialing instructions for international calls? Didn’t the child have a WIFI enabled device and the ability to communicate thru it? Didn’t the child have Skype addresses for all his grown-ups so he could ask an airline employee or fellow traveler for help contacting?

    Stayed in a hotel alone? Had they ripped the phone out of the room? Why didn’t he call from his room? Was he bound and gagged?

    No food? Did the child ASK for food or just shake his head when asked? At 12, a child is old enough to ask for food and help. Did this child grow up in a cocoon?

    There is this attitude that Someone Else Should Be Responsible for Our Children. Sorry – parents and step-parents and grandparents remain primarily responsible – ALWAYS. Why did those relatives all fail to properly prepare this child for this journey?

    If I had decided to allow one of my children to fly unescorted on a multi-island itinerary on LIAT at age 12, they would have been prepared to keep me posted and participate in the management of their travel.

    LIAT needs to improve and parents need to act responsibly and teach their children Life Skills – like how to deal with changing situations.

  4. PLANTATION DEEDS FROM 1926-2013 AND SEE MASSIVE FRAUD ,LAND TAX BILLS AND NO DEEDS

    Where the hell is RED JET?

  5. MeMe

    Mother of Two,

    When you hand your child over to any airline (or anyone) to get them anywhere, the airline (or person) has a responsibility to make sure they are attended to / taken care of / and handed back over safely and above all – that you are advised if there is a problem along the way. Full stop.

    And sorry, everyone does not have the money to buy the luxuries that you obviously enjoy or the ability to give children Credit Cards.

    What kind of person are you!

  6. Mother of Two is quite right that children should be taught Life Skills. However, for her to hold a 12 year old boy, his mother, stepfather and grandparents responsible for the disgraceful behaviour of an airline into whose care the young man was placed for travel is beyond belief.

    Skype, debit/credit card, list of telephone numbers and international dialling codes are all great, but for God sake, the young man was only 12 years old and could have been of shy character and therefore incapable of making any demands on those in whose care he had been placed. Also remember the total length of the flight, which means that the batter for any telephone gadget is likely to have died.

    As a mother of two myself, I know only too well that the teaching of life skills to one’s children is essential, but it is a gradual process, with some children grasping these much earlier than others.

    The comments made by a mother about someone else’s 12 year old year old child who should have been looked after by LIAT during travel with them are harsh and not very ‘motherly’ at all.

  7. Mother of Two

    Please re-read my original comments.

    I did not and do not condone the performance of LIAT.
    I did not and do not hold the parents responsible for the awful performance of LIAT.
    I do hold the parents responsible for protecting their own children by empowering those children with Life Skills appropriate to their age.

    As a mother, it as my responsibility to prepare my child for the circumstances I place them in – like buying them a ticket to fly unescorted on LIAT – on a muli-leg, island hopping journey. That includes providing the child with the means to communicate their status back to me.

    My list of what might a parent have done in advance so the child could contact the parent included:
    1) Giving the child Skype addresses to use. Skype is FREE.
    2) Talking about asking a fellow passenger for help communicating. Good Samaritans are FREE. Wouldn’t you help if you saw a child traveling alone?
    3) Calls from hotel rooms are FREE until you checkout and LIAT was paying for the room and any calls made from the room.
    4) Air travel is NOT free so the parents were not devoid of all financial resources.
    5) The parents know the child and made the decision that the child was suited for traveling alone – under the supervision of unknown employees of the airline – on a multi-leg journey.

    Again, I do not condone the performance of LIAT.

    The parents could not have prevented the flight delays but they could have empowered the child to communicate with them.

    I wrote to present the position that a 12 yr old whose parents would send island hopping alone is neither a BOX to be shipped… nor a 5 yr old and that parents retain responsibility to empower their children.

    As a mother, I would NOT have sent my 12 yr old child on a multi-leg island hopping journey without providing the child with ways of communicating with me.

    Everyone reading his has a computer. Most parents would Google ‘children flying unescorted’ and read the rules of the various air carriers – as the short course to get up to speed on the subject.

    From Google, you also find: http://airsafe.com/kidsafe/kidrules.htm

    Parents are the responsible adults and need to think thru what they are doing when they send a child unescorted ANYWHERE via ANY MEANS.

    I wrote so that other parents thinking about sending a child flying un-attended will read all sides of this post and figure out how to empower their child with knowledge and information – Life Skills – to both keep the child safe (psychologically and physically) and to ensure the parents get the communication they need – even when the airline fails to perform properly.

  8. Well Well.

    Obviously they cannot attempt to tell off Branson (virgin atlantic) for this one with their rude, disrespectful, incompetent and inefficient selves.

  9. Well Well.

    How many times my grands have flown around the world, you pay a fee for an unaccompanied minor, you get the rare glitches but liat seems to be consistent with ineptness.

  10. We’ve created a page to highlight the problems with LIAT service and also started a petition to have them held accountable, check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hold-LIAT-Accountable/523092007739214

  11. Sam Tucker

    Just to Clarify, the child was fine and taken care of (with the exception of breakfast or a drink the following morning) and as I stated in my letter I am fully aware of things that go wrong with airlines BUT there is no excuse for the lack of communication from LIAT – this was my main point.

    The calls from a hotel phone are available – if you put down a credit card as security. Just because LIAT has authorized a room doesn’t mean that its guests can call overseas for free – I am not sure what world you are in.

    Also as noted I had tried to call LIAT at various times of the trip as I could see that the flight was going to be late – why were they not aware and being proactive or even answering their phones?

    The young man is very shy, he didn’t want to ask questions thus didn’t make a fuss about not having breakfast. He had money to travel with but when he saw the prices to buy a sandwich in St.Maarten and converted that back to Guyanese dollars he thought it was incredibly expensive and didn’t buy. I would have rather that he did and both myself and wife told him that. At the same time though LIAT should have checked with him that he was ok and that he had been fed, afterall it was their fault he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    I am glad to hear that your children have the luxury of roaming cell phones with wifi and credit cards – but this is not the reality of most kids in the Caribbean.

    Again I note that my main point here was the total breakdown of customer service with LIAT and I sincerely hope that for all of us in the Caribbean and it’s visitors that this is addressed as it hurts all of us and our tourism product.

  12. The Watcher

    Shut down this useless flying ZR. Are we going to wait until LIAT kills a few people with their carelessness before strong action is taken?
    And you know what? When LIAT is staring down the barrel of a lawsuit like non other they have ever seen, BARBADOS will be asked to pick up that tab because all of a sudden LIAT will be Barbados’ national airline.
    If we have this much say in it, shut it down, restructure it and then start back up. They call that “Business Process Re-Engineering” other places. A clear example of that was ValueJet which by way of some careless actions, crashed in the Florida Everglades killing all on board. They went away for awhile and re-emerged as Jet Blue. How many of you have flown that carrier without a second thought to where they came from and under what circumstances they managed to be here?
    Close the damn thing, fire the top management who are excuse making thieves and get going again!
    We gine keep playin’ till daylight run out! But the results wont be a “stump toe” um gine be ah brek foot and crack ribs!
    I dun taking wid wunnah. Wunnah too hard-earz!

  13. Yatinkiteasy

    @ The Watcher. Get your facts right…..Jet Blue had nothing to do at all with Value Jet. Value Jet did have a crash in the Everglades in Florida, that ultimately caused its demise, but it never “reemerged” as Jet Blue.
    Totally false information.

  14. I SIT HERE AND I WONDER IF THE FRONT OF HOUSE OF LIAT IS IN SUCH SHAMBLES WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE BACK OF HOUSE FOR EXAMPLE IN THE SERVICING OF THE AIR CRAFTS. IF THEY CANT INVEST IN THEIR CUSTOMER CARE PRODUCT, I JUST CANT SEE HOW THEY WOULD INVEST IN PROPER PARTS AND TOP NOTCH MAINTINANCE. WAKE UP BARBADOS THE FLIGHT THAT PROVES POOR MAINTENANCE OF AIRCRAFTS MAY BE THE FLIGHT WITH YOU OR YOUR DEAREST LOVE ONES ON IT. I PRAY AND HOPE THAT THE POWERS THAT BE WILL STEP IN AND GIVE THIS AIR SERVICE PRODUCT A FULL OVER HAUL FROM TOP TO BOTTOM. PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE HAS BEEN A SAYING THAT IS TRIED, TESTED AND PROVEN TO BE TRUE.

  15. jay

    mother of two you need to shut the hell up with your blah blah blah, it seems like you work for liat so your not gonna say anything different. wifi enable devices?, debit cards? you think if these people had money to burn they would be flying LIAT? dumbass?

  16. Anonymous

    LIAT’s staff members’ attitude to the whole affair involving the 12 year old boy must be regarded as a symptom of the larger problem.

    If the mother’s intentions for her husband were good from the stage of her thoughts, all of that would have never happened to the boy.

    I bet that if you were to follow up that blended family in another year you will be able to discover the primary intent of the mother. The step-father should not try to say too much at this time because he will soon discover whatever it had been and from which the Cosmic had been trying to save him.

    That woman had / has no good intentions towards her husband who has referred to himself as the boy’s step-father. He will soon be writing about both of them on this blog! May The Christ Spirit within him shine through and lift the scales from his eyes.

  17. TheWatcher

    @ Yatinkiteasy.
    My facts are always straight. Just because it isn’t as clear as day, doesn’t imply that it isn’t so.
    Look up the US registry of Airlines and you will see the very strong connections between the two. Take a look at Bankrupcies and who filed for CH11 and who emerged 7 years after and under what new operating names.
    Connect the dots, don’t look for the line to be drawn.Don’t jump up assuming that because its not written in the clouds against the backdrop of the clear blue sky, it isn’t so! Most information that is placed for public consumption is full of spin and inaccuracies. That’s purposely done. And most people wont bother to go digging because if it isn’t said by a “credible” news organization of otherwise, it isn’t true.
    Bear this in mind. After the tragedy of ValueJet, do you think that a re-emergent company whose roots were glaringly in ValueJet and who were in the airline business would really get passengers to fly such that they were a profitable venture knowing where they came from? Hardly likely! So don’t expect it to glare as bright as the sun, look for the shadow within the shadows to seek your validation of truth.

  18. Anonymous

    @TheWatcher –Sorry dude you’re not correct. AirTran re-emerged
    from the ValueJet disaster. I was a stockholder and should know.

  19. Yatinkiteasy

    @ Watcher. There is no evidence (unless you can show it) that Jet Blue and its founders and Directors had any connection at all to ValueJet. You are trying to draw a line between imaginary dots. Please provide “the shadows within the shadows ” so that I and other readers can be better informed of your statement that Value Jet “re emerged ” as Jet Blue.
    Of course you could also admit that you were wrong, which is not a sin , you know.

  20. Anonymous

    @Yatink… JetBlue was founded by the owner of a Utah travel
    consolidator/air charter company and relocated to JFK. As I stated
    shortly after the Everglades crash ValueJet ceased operation (HQ’d
    in Atlanta) and re-emerged at AirTran HQ’d in Orlando. It is now owned
    by Southwest. Same planes- same crews. The Watcher has a
    tendency to bloviate.

  21. Robert Bates

    Liat are, quite simply a disgrace & an embarrassment for the Caribbean as a whole. Until a few self serving individuals relinquish control just expect more of the same.

  22. Dominican

    Liat has no respect. all they care about is making money. doing once can be excusable but doing it more than once, it too much. Liat need to be sued.

  23. yatinkiteasy

    @Anon….”Bloviate”…what a word, perfect description.

  24. yatinkiteasy

    A recent Newspaper advertisement from Liat featured direct flights to San Juan , Puerto Rico.
    I wish to point out that this is a blatant example of misleading advertising.
    Liat does not fly direct to San Juan from Barbados. The Flight stops in Antigua, and then continues to San Juan. However, all passengers must disembark, go through security , and then re board the plane, after identifying their bag/bags which are placed on the tarmac for that purpose.
    The Flight number is the same, which is probably why Liat calls it a direct flight.
    The problem is this…if you purchase duty free liquor and perfume in Barbados , at the Duty free airport shops before boarding, they will be confiscated in Antigua, as you can`t go through security with them, and you can`t pack them in your checked luggage because that is on the tarmac.
    Of course, no one at Liat or the Duty free shops in Barbados tell you this little detail, which could cost you hundreds of dollars.It happened to me, so I am not just saying it could happen….it did happen.

  25. Liat what a bunch of w4nkers

    I will never visit multiple Caribbean islands ever again with Liat – ever.
    They are a total joke and don’t give a shit about customers plain and simple

  26. Canadian Tourist

    “Mother of Two”, how long have you been working as senior management at LIAT? Otherwise, I believe you must be clinically retarded.

    If this happens again, I suggest the parents of the missing child contact the police and state that a LIAT employee has abducted their child.

  27. Anomynous

    http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/petition-from-the-travelling-public-to-the-owners-of-the-caribbean-airline-liat

    PETITION FROM THE TRAVELLING PUBLIC TO THE OWNERS OF THE CARIBBEAN AIRLINE LIAT

    To:
    – Hon. Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados
    – Dr. Hon. Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda
    – Dr. Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent & Grenadines

    WHEREAS the eastern Caribbean airline LIAT has lost large sums of taxpayer money almost every year since becoming a regionally owned carrier almost 40 years ago, and

    WHEREAS one way or another LIAT continues to absorb and/or lose large sums of money and needs to be supported by the taxpayers and travelling public in multiple islands, and

    WHEREAS the majority of passengers using LIAT are regional citizens who rely on the airline for inter-island travel for trade, business, cargo, small packages, medical services, visas, education, family, friends, festivals and more, and

    WHEREAS the eastern Caribbean shareholders of LIAT continue decade after decade to appoint Board Members and management for political reasons who are clearly proven to be eminently unsuitable and unqualified, and

    WHEREAS the eastern Caribbean airline LIAT has just experienced a two-week “meltdown” inconveniencing thousands of local and regional citizens and foreign visitors by reason of incompetence of and lack of foresight by both Board and upper management, and

    WHEREAS it is pellucidly clear to everyone in the eastern Caribbean that the current status quo of the direction and management of LIAT cannot – and MUST NOT – continue,

    BE IT THEREFORE RECORDED that we, the undersigned, call on the primary shareholder Prime Ministers and governments of LIAT – ie: Hon. Freundel Stuart of Barbados; Dr. Hon. Baldwin Spencer of Antigua; and Dr. Hon. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent – to perform the following actions forthwith:

    1. To REMOVE the current Chairman, Board and top management of LIAT in a timely manner, in no case longer than six months (the one exception being Gatesworth James of Antigua, who has current knowledge and experience in aviation), and

    2. To CHANGE the future quality and qualifications of individuals they appoint Board Members, away from local political appointees and to local and/or regional citizens – residing locally or abroad – who have intimate knowledge and/or recent experience about airlines and aviation, such that the Board in totality produces and provides a broad practical knowledgebase with which to guide the airline to profitability and efficiency, and

    3. To REQUIRE, from this day on, that each Board Member (including the Chairman) and members of the upper management of LIAT travel at least 600 miles (about 3 hours) on the airline’s network, at least once a month – but preferably more frequently – so that they may experience and view first hand what passengers and staff of the airline experience and view every day and seek to correct it before major problems occur, and

    4. To INSIST that all processes and procedures in the airline be reviewed annually by management and/or regional consultants to streamline or eliminate unnecessary bottlenecks, blocks and annoyances from the running of the airline and processing of its passengers, and

    5. To REDUCE AND/OR REMOVE all airport, airline and passenger travel taxes, fees and charges imposed by the shareholder governments, to set the example others may follow so that regional aviation may have yet another impediment removed from ease of movement among CARICOM nations – as is publicly postulated as part of the regional political will.

  28. Captain Pugwash

    Very sensible piece of writing, from the heart of very frustrated people.
    The airline is a joke, the office staff are rude, disrespectful and uninterested.
    This airline needs to step up to the plate in all departments and serve the people well and behave like they are providing the necessary service required in the Islands. I travel extensively and feel that I cannot trust LIAT to get me to my destination, certainly with my baggage at the same time, I often engage FlyBVI to help me when LIAT let me down.
    Richard Branson has the people and the expertise to sort this out, either by taking LIAT over or setting up in competition.