Five couple headed off to Dominica to SCUBA dive. We had started organizing this trip about 8 months ago. Getting accommodations and dive operator was no problem but getting airline reservations on the last leg to the island was impossible. We were departing from Minnesota so we were going to have to make some connections somewhere. At that time American Eagle was deciding if they were going to stop service and Liat was in the middle of bankruptcy. We had originally want to do a 10 day trip starting mid week but finally out of frustration had to settle for 7 days, Saturday to Saturday.
Let me says this first……. I am also going to post just on the island and diving. We real enjoyed the island, people , the accommodations and diving was very good. HOWEVER LIAT the airlines is killing the island. All you have to do is bring up Liat and the words of dislike flow from the Taxi drivers, to the business owers and mangers of tours business. Yes, it does not help that Dominica does not have an International size airport that can accommodate large jets but it should have an adequate operated small aircraft carrier.
I have done considerable travel diving/touring all over the world and have traveled almost as much on Puddle Jumpers as I have on jets. I am also a private pilot, IFR, Multi engine, turo, seaplane, rated with over 4000 hours, so I have some knowledge of the requirements and regulations needed to operate planes. Also I have owned and operated several business that required management of large numbers of employees and logistical problems.
I do not think that I have every run across a business that basically has a monopoly and yet is the most disorganized, understaffed, no customer relations and not a clue as to how to solve problems. Liat’s company attitude of not caring filters down thru all ranks of the company. All you have to do is Google Liat and the miles of complements pop up.
Let me give you just a taste. Arrived in Antigua for the last leg to Dominica. First told that the flight would be delay, then cancelled due to work stoppage. This the last flight o Dominica so every one starts to make arrangements to spend the night in Antigua. An announcements comes over the loud speaker that the flight will leave in 15 minutes. Every one gets on the plane and off we go to Dominica. We circle Dominica and are told that due to weathers we will fly to Barbados. At Barbados we were taken to a fully depreciated hotel which had a furniture store, a 20 by 30 plastic pool, an electric bumper car ride that you see at an amusement park, a bowling /bar/ restaurant were we served rice and one of the chickens that did not make it across the road.
The showers delivered as much water as a leaking facet and the winner of the cockroach contest was measured not in numbers but by the largest weight. I could have won a bass contest for biggest fish of the day.
Next morning off to Dominica, were we all arrived but not our luggage. As diver this meant all of our dive equipment. We had already missed one day of diving.
One set of bags arrived that afternoon, One the next day and 2 the 3rd day. One couple did not get their luggage until Friday afternoon, the day before they were to leave the island. No clothes or equipment for the entire trip!!!!
Saturday morning we were up a 4:00am to leave at 5:00am from the hotel headed for the airport for a 10:40 am departure. If you have been on the road to airport, I need not say more but if you have not it is a hour plus drive or more due to the fact that it has been all washed out by the hurricanes. We arrived at the airport to find the ticket area is packed to over flow with people and it is only 7:00AM. There are only 2 counter people . We finally get to the counter around 10:00 am and are informed that the flight is delayed. We clear security and enter the departure holding pen. 11 o’clock, 12, 1, 2, 3 we are still in the holding area, nothing from Liat about the flight. The two vending machines do not work. At 4 o’clock I leave the area and go outside. The ticketing area is still full with people from this morning, who are still standing in line. There I see one couple of our group who are traveling on a different itinerary, we thought they had caught their 11:00am flight! They were still in line! He told me that at noon the counter staff closed down the counter and went to lunch for an hour.
Finally at 6:00 pm we were told to get ready for boarding our flight. They lined all of the passenger up on the tarmac in the hot sun and slowly brought out all of our luggage and lined it up on the tarmac and each person had to identify their luggage. This process took an hour.
We arrived in San Juan to find the entire airport was close. We made it to the Liat counter. Were we were given our reservations ( we thought) for the next morning. U.S. Air counter was closed as was all the others. Two sets of luggage did not show up at San Juan. How do you lose luggage on a non stop flight when it was on the tarmac not 20 feet from the plane. We were taken to another fully depreciated accommodation.
The reservation list for 4 couples showed that we were leaving at different times starting at 6:00 am thru 12:30. Some where going to Philadelphia and some to Atlanta The fifth couple on a different itinerary were not on our flight to San Juan but were sent back to Barbados. That was the last time we saw any one from Liat. Since we missed our flights it was now U.S. Airs problem.
At 5:30 am I get a Text message from the first person to leave from our group stating that the reservations we received from Liat last might were not confirmed reservations but were for “Stand By”. We all scrambled and headed for the ticket counters. Over the course of several hours we stood and played the stand by games. We finally caught a flight and arrived home at midnight Sunday.
The couple that went to Barbados had to spend 2 night before flying to Atlanta were their flight was diverted to Birmingham Alabama due to weather. They got home Tuesday. Several of the couples had to buy tickets to get home
One couple did not receive their luggage for 8 days. It was in Antigua.
Do not try to send a “ Receipt Required “ Email as Liat will not accept it, they just bounce the Email back, You can not send a ‘Certified letter” as it is out of the country. When I finally got thru to Liat by phone to register a compliant and to get information to file an insurance claim, the lady responded “ You will have to wait awhile to get any things as there are hundreds in front of you”
I would go back to Dominica in a heart beat, there is so much more to do and see but I now can see why when you look a the form there are only about 600 inquires.
I will go back but I will swim from San Juan before I will get involved with Liat again.