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Passengers threaten to sue Caribbean Airlines as flights to Guyana resume; TT court orders pilots to end sick-out

Last Updated on Monday, 21 August 2023, 22:09 by Denis Chabrol

Caribbean Airlines’ office in Georgetown, Guyana

Even as Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) resumed flights on some routes after pilots began trickling back to work following a court order, at least three United States (US)-based Guyanese on Monday said they would sue the carrier for failing to fly them out of Guyana on Sunday after cockpit crews reported sick.

Guyana’s Aviation Minister, Juan Edghill said CAL commenced operation Monday afternoon with the ATR into Ogle and outbound to Barbados. Another flight, BW 527, from Trinidad to Guyana was preparing to leave for New York. Mr Edghill said the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority’s Control Tower also received a a flight plan for a CAL flight that was scheduled to arrive at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport from Toronto, Canada.

CAL on Monday confirmed that it obtained an injunction from Trinidad and Tobago’s Industrial Court against the Trinidad and Tobago Airline Pilots Association (TTALPA) to “bring a stop to the disruption” that lasted from August 18 to 20. During that period, the airline said it received 93 sick calls from pilots resulting in the cancellation of 60 flights. “TTALPA is directed forthwith through its President and Executive to instruct and/or direct its members and/or members of the bargaining unit for which it is certified as the recognised majority union and who are workers/employees of Caribbean Airlines Limited to report for duty as rostered and as they are required to do in he normal course of their employment,” the court order states. The aviation sector is an essential service under Trinidad and Tobago’s law.

While CAL’s ground staff, front-end personnel, cabin crew, reservations call centres, maintenance, and management were fully prepared to ensure the smooth functioning of its flights, the carrier said the sick-out came as a surprise. “Despite our meticulous planning and state of readiness, we could not have anticipated or adequately prepared for these unfortunate events,” the airline said in a public apology to customers,” CAL said.

In Guyana, three members of a family bemoaned the poor communication by CAL alleging that that airline had only communicated that the flight was cancelled while they were well on their way by road to the airport. They also said none of CAL’s representatives at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport or at the Georgetown office could provide them with information or a letter for one of them to take back to her employer as proof that there was a problem with the airline that caused her delayed return to work. Mrs. Merlene Rudder said CAL gave them a website link that repeatedly stated that the airline was sorry but provided no specific plans to fly passengers to their destinations.

“This is affecting us very terribly because I have work, everybody has work to go back to. Everybody has things to do, everybody has school. Caribbean Airlines cannot accommodate you. They don’t have anything to give you. They don’t have any refunds or next flights,” said Ms Rudder’s daughter, Sun-Jeet Grandsoult.  They and Ms Rudder’s niece, Makela Marks, said they would be suing the Trinidad and Tobago state-owned airline. “We are taking legal action, yes we are. This will be among the three of us so far. I don’t know about any other passenger who was in the office that would be suing but we will be suing,” she said.

Ms Marks, who is an expectant mother of twins, said she missed a doctor’s appointment in the US.

They were unconcerned about the industrial unrest at CAL and said the airline’s responsibility was to its consumers and said they were not interested in taking CAL’s US$250 credit for which paperwork has to be filled out beforehand. “That really don’t have anything to do with us because we are paying our money and whatever Caribbean Airlines is doing at their end, their shortcoming of the pilots,” Ms Grandsoult said.

They arrived in Guyana on August 9 and were due to leave at 5:55 PM on August 20

CAL and TTALPA are in a long-running dispute in negotiations for a new collective labour agreement.

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August 2023