Scores of passengers traveling to the various Caribbean islands from St. Maarten are stranded at St. Maarten for the past four days and there is no LIAT agent such as a supervisor on duty to provide passengers accurate information.
One passenger Tamara Gumbs who was supposed to leave St. Maarten to St. Lucia on Saturday to attend a 60th birthday celebration in St. Lucia told SMN News on Christmas day that she has been at the airport since yesterday and at no point she or the other stranded passengers could get proper information from the LIAT agent at PJIAE. Gumbs said only students are attending to the passengers and each time they are given different excuses, one being the pilots decided not to come to St. Maarten, or that Antigua has decided to cancel the St. Maarten route.
Gumbs said she spent her Christmas Eve at PJIAE until midnight when LIAT agents decided to send them to hotels but when they reached the hotels, all of them were fully booked and those that had space were forcing the passengers to sleep with strangers. Gumbs said tourists and locals were placed in the same rooms because hotels such as the Towers and Alegria did not have space for all the passengers that were sent there. She said at one point she chose to go back home even though it’s a good distance away from PJIAE and all taxi drivers working at the Airport refused LIAT bonds because they seem to have a reputation of not paying their vendors.
Chaos at Princess Juliana Airport on Christmas morning.
Gumbs said on Christmas morning the angry passengers have decided to take action by blocking the check-in counter because passengers coming from Tortola were supposed to check in, they said unless those that have been stranded for the past days get on a flight to go to their destination. Gumbs said she spent Christmas Eve at PJIAE and she does not intend to spend her entire Christmas day at PJAIE and miss the event she is scheduled to attend on Monday.
SMN News contacted a senior agent of Juliana Handlers who admitted that LIAT have been cancelling flights for days now and that while the passengers are not seeing a supervisor, the agent said the supervisors are busy trying to get the Operations of LIAT in Antigua to send aircrafts on St. Maarten to get the passengers to their destination. The agent who is also not pleased with the services LIAT have been offering said that this is Christmas and people have to suffer even when they paid for their flights. Asked if LIAT pilots are on strike, the agent said no one is on strike but St. Maarten believes that LIAT has a crew shortage, yet they are booking flights. The agent also expressed apologies to the passengers that have been in this predicament for the past days. The agent also urged the passengers not to check out of their hotels because their is no guarantee they would get a room if they does not get on board a flight today.