COMMENTARY: Seaborne Airlines: Flight cancelled, bad weather and we are not responsible

Passengers who were scheduled to travel on flight No.BB4583, and I guess those who were coming in on the corresponding flight, on Sunday 17th June, 2018, Fathers’ Day, were in total disbelief when it was announced that their flights to and from San Juan had been cancelled. The aircraft arrived in Dominica on schedule but was unable to land because of inclement weather. This was the official reason given by Seaborne agents on the ground.

The Seaborne flight was scheduled to arrive at 2:15 p.m. but at 1:48 p.m. there was a heavy shower which lasted for about twenty minutes and apparently during that time the aircraft was approaching to land, visibility was bad and it was impossible to approach the runway from the mountains. So that was it, the aircraft returned to San Juan.

Passengers were informed and advised that they will have a long wait for the return of the aircraft, which in my mind, I knew was impossible, because by the time the aircraft returns to San Juan, goes through their bureaucracy, refill fuel it would be close to 5:00 p.m. and Seaborne would not leave San Juan for Dominica at that time.

At 3:21, after sitting in the departure lounge for more than an hour, the announcement came; “Seaborne flight No. BB4583 to San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been cancelled because of bad weather, passengers with boarding passes with connecting flights, should make rebooking arrangements with their airlines because Seaborne is not responsible. A Magic Jack telephone is available to use, if you wish.”

The flight was cancelled because of one shower of rain and passengers had to fight their own battle to make arrangements for the rescheduling of their travel. During that time, in fact less than half an hour after the Seaborne aircraft aborted landing in Dominica, a LIAT aircraft landed from Barbados and departed for Antigua in bright sunshine and another LIAT flight was scheduled to arrive.

With a Jet Blue connection at 8:39 p.m. there was sufficient time to inform Jet Blue that the flight from Dominica was cancelled to secure another reservation. Seaborne will not take the responsibility to make that arrangement, passengers had to wait their turn to use the Magic Jack telephone which one lady had in her possession for more than half an hour, trying to resolve her situation.

Finally, Seaborne gave no. 1 801 449 2525 for Jet Blue which could be contacted. After twenty minutes getting through to Jet Blue, you are told that it is Seaborne’ responsibility to reschedule the reservations and Jet Blue cannot assist from their end. The Seaborne attendant is given the telephone to speak to Jet Blue and then she says we, Seaborne, will make the reservations, come back to the airport for 10:00 a.m. to catch a flight that leaves at 1:30 p.m. without any confirmation of the connecting flights, one is expected to be in the airport three and a half hours before the fight departs.

Meanwhile passengers are on their own, they had to find transportation and accommodation because Seaborne is not responsible. A flight cancelled because of one shower of rain and bright sunshine thereafter yet passengers are left with the burden of all the responsibilities.

I have no difficulties when flights are cancelled, neither do I question Seaborne’s decision to cancel the flight because, for me, safety is paramount. I’m always prepared to accept any delay of airline service whether it is due to mechanical, weather, administrative or any other reasons. I am never in a hurry to fly and in fact, I have developed a dislike for flying because the stress of leaving and coming to Dominica has taken its toll on me, over the years, that I prefer to be grounded. There is no pleasure in the Dominica flying experience, whether it is leaving or coming. No wonder so few Dominicans come back home for vacation.

Considering the aforementioned, there are numerous concerns to be addressed:

Who determines when a flight should be aborted, because it is strange that one airline aborts a flight due to bad weather and within thirty minutes another airline lands and departs without any difficulty.

Was the Seaborne pilot new to the island and got scared, because the weather condition was quite normal to Dominica standards, that’s why LIAT landed and departed with no excitement.

Do the airlines operate under the same terms and conditions?

Who determines responsibility to passengers when a flight is cancelled?

We are in the Hurricane Season and expect much rain over the next six months, will Seaborne cancel flights every time it rains?

It appears that Dominican travellers are subjected to the worst service the airlines have to offer.

If Dominican nationals are so frustrated with travelling from and to the island, one can well imagine the feelings of visitors.

Do the authorities know the pain and suffering travellers to and from Dominica endure?

With the absence of an international airport and the Nature Island becoming increasingly less attractive to visitors, the airline service in Dominica will apparently get worse. Isn’t it time to seriously consider the establishment of Dominica’s National Airline, because it appears that the airlines are fed up with us, we hardly ever have sufficient passengers to fill an aircraft, except during the World Creole Festival and Carnival, all our sister Caribbean Islands, to the north and to the south are better off than us with International airports.

The construction of an international airport in Dominica will take no less than ten years, can we really wait that long before something else is done to improve destination Dominica?

If the Government of Dominica really has money in the piggy bank for the airport, let’s invest in some planes and create Dominica Airways or else Dominican travellers will continue to be subjected by this crap that Seaborne gave its passengers on Father’s Day, 2018.

Meanwhile, let’s see what today brings, will Seaborne again abort today’s flight because it is raining and will the stranded passengers be assisted to get to their destination. In the midst of all this, no one protested and accepted their dilemma with calm. I refused to protest and be the mouth piece for passengers who appear quite comfortable in accepting what should have been an unacceptable service.

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19 Comments

  1. Dominican
    June 20, 2018

    Take liat an done!!! Ppfftt .. liat pilots are the best.. not no jokey pilots..

  2. Bring back our parrots
    June 19, 2018

    Flying to and from Dominica is worse than having a tooth pulled or having hemorrhoids, It did not use to be that way even in the 1950’s soon after the airport opened. Getting to Dominica is a major task that’s why people do not want to go there. The island is losing out on tourists because of that. What Dominica needs is their very own small 30 passenger jet service to and from Florida. Money being wasted could be used by the government instead to buy a small fleet of jet aircrafts. Even though a 737 could possible land on Dominica a aircraft of that size is not needed due to the small volume of passengers travelling every day. There are people who were born on Dominica and have not been back in a long time because of the hassle of flying there.

  3. Merina McKenzie
    June 19, 2018

    The cancellation was due to bad visibility brought on by the rain, not from the rain./
    Safety first.

  4. Manti Poe
    June 19, 2018

    The normal operating procedure is for the aircraft to circle until it is safe to land, they are supposed to carry enough fuel for such an emergency. The other option is to land at a nearby airport, like Antigua or Guadeloupe until the weather clears. They probably would have to pay landing fees but it would be cheaper than having to reimburse passengers, which they did not do anyway. It was cheaper for them to cancelled the flight seeing there was little objection. Someone in authority, meaning the government, should have addressed this matter, it is that important. For someone living in North American it is cheaper, quicker, and less stressful to fly to Europe than return home to Dominica. It is a shame that in 2018 this continue to be an issue.

  5. badbaje
    June 19, 2018

    I wish I could meet Mr. Skerrit, whom I so often read about in these stories and comments. Over the years I came to the conclusion he must be a mighty man indeed, and here to put the icing on the cake, to remove any doubt as to his powers, we have him controlling the weather and managing Seaborne Airlines, to adversely affect some father’s day travelers. I ask this question. Is there anything negative happening in Dominica the man is not responsible for? Another question. Does anyone realize how some of these stories and comments must “sound” to many open minded people who may come here to get a “feel” of what is happening in the island? I like to think of myself as such an open minded person, and I do hold the leader of any country responsible for the failure of the government to provide certain services to the people who pay their salaries. I disagree with many things he is reported to have said and done, but some comments from some critics are really outrageous.

  6. I am mine own
    June 18, 2018

    Flying into Dominica feels like flying into a death trap, especially on the tiny little jets that bounce with every gust of wind. Perhaps if a larger runway gets built, we wouldn’t need our own airlines because larger commercial airliners could fly into DA.

  7. Jane
    June 18, 2018

    Had the same experience with liat on the 9th of June. Because of one shower our flight was cancelled and then we had to purchase tickets for another airline because LIAT only flies to Puerto Rico on certain days, Dominica needs alternatives. Limited planes fly in and out and this makes travelling stressful.

  8. Neville
    June 18, 2018

    Welcome to the Roosevelt-Skerrit International Airport. Only the best will do. Soon it will be even better and climate resilient totally constructed from recycled containers. Some of the bridges on the island have also been constructed of containers.

  9. Hope
    June 18, 2018

    That’s why I love my LIat :-D

  10. Just passing
    June 18, 2018

    I agree with this statement: “If the Government of Dominica really has money in the piggy bank for the airport, let’s invest in some planes and create Dominica Airways”.

    • Bring our parrots back
      June 19, 2018

      Dominica needs it own fleet of small 30 passenger jet aircrafts to go direct to Florida. Even three planes would do.

  11. Sams
    June 18, 2018

    Liat list liat my mistake

  12. Sams
    June 18, 2018

    That’s why I don’t travel on seaborne you all can say what all u want on list but list would have made all arrangements for connecting flights plus they would go Antigua that is closer and return that same day to land let’s go liat and winair

  13. Jackie Kamau
    June 18, 2018

    Well, Mr. Mack,
    The airline service to this island is too restrictive in terms of service, cost and quality of fleet. In order to fly in or out of Dominica, one must have a Mathematics and Aeronautics degree in order to navigate websites and travel agencies and get a flight with the best price, little or no stop-overs and with the least amount of flight time. I also have been subject to Seaborne’s cancelled flights and I am currently trying (with no avail) to get through to Air Antilles for reimbursement/ re-ticketing of cancelled flights (for a family of 5) since October 2017 due to hurricane Maria. I have tried emails, Social Media, and of late, their phones are not working.
    With service like this, it’s no wonder, no one wants to come here to visit or stay. InterCarribean Airlines is another service which I am afraid to take because their planes are held together with duck-tape and straps, it’s no wonder they are allowed to take-off at all and their prices are ridiculous.

    • Collins onyuka
      June 18, 2018

      This is so rediculus my sister. And the way i was trying to book a flight to Nairobi with Seabone as one of connecting flights

  14. Ibo France
    June 18, 2018

    Mr. Mack, most of what you have stated is typical of the daily grind of life in Dominica. The country is lagging light years behind its neighbors. Life on the island is a daily struggle for most citizens. The inhabitants are too timid, docile and submissive. They are willing to suffer excruciating pain and indignities in silence because they don’t want to upset their MASTER for fear of being denied crumps from Skerrit’s saucer. Can you imagine any other administration, in the Caribbean, after 18 consecutive years in government with such an abysmal record of failure, still winning elections? Only in Dominica this is possible in this age of modernity. Skerrit’s incumbency has unleashed unbearable stress and misery on the local people. The country has been reduced to beggar’s status. Yet, Skerrit and his Cabinet Ministers are growing obese while thousands of locals are becoming emaciated. It’s time for this crooked, opaque and corrupt regime to vacate government.

    • June 18, 2018

      More political rubbish. When this crooked government vacates office who is going to replace it? Is it the bunch of guys most of whom cannot find employment and are complaining that they are hungry and broke? Is it the UWP opposition, that is now publicly advocating a return to the policies of the UWP of 1995 to 2000? Ibo France, I remember those days and they weren’t pretty, civil servants were not been paid on time, merchants were not accepting government LPO because of government inability to pay. The abuse by the UWP government of the CIP caused Canada to impose visa restrictions on Dominicans entering Canada. Our roads were in an advanced state of decay, the Melville hall was neglected as the people were given the promise of a phantom international airport, the akward attempt to finance this project sent Dominica in an economic tail spin.

      • Ibo France
        June 18, 2018

        Anon, your statements are heavily laced with hyperbole. Let’s assume for a brief moment that everything you have stated has some elements of truth. The present UWP has new and astute leadership, new candidates, visionary ideas, and is people oriented. You cannot condemned the present erudite leadership of the UWP for things that they did not commit. Would you condemn a child for his Father’s earlier transgressions? What I want from a government are fairness, inclusion, transparency, accountability, integrity, cohesion in society. Mr. Skerrit has engaged in behavior that is contrary to the aforementioned characteristics. His policies and his behavior have created a fractious and disgruntled nation. He should bow out of politics for the betterment of the country. That’s my unvarnished opinion.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
      • Merina mcKenzie
        June 19, 2018

        It is worse now, and the roads and the country are in a deplorable state.
        Difference, Skerritt and his gang are splurging and hiding the country’s money.
        They received lots of money post Maria.
        UWP did not embezzle any government funds.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

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