BC’S BARBADOS: Firetruck with me
Now, if I worked for an airline that deliberately left a dozen of my paying passengers’ bags behind for some reason of the airline’s own . . . .
Perhaps the check-in clerk did some quick arithmetic on the back of a Trinidad departure form and accepted two suitcases filled with lead, so he could charge the equivalent of ten fares in overweight and put more profits into the airline’s pockets . . . .
If I had treated my customers so harshly, I would back-pedal when I had to explain that, though they had landed in Barbados, their suitcases containing their insulin and syringes or their son’s birthday present had been left behind for my own commercial convenience.
Anywhere in the world, apart from Barbados or the United Arab Emirates, with which Barbados shares certain instincts for treating good citizens like naughty children, airline employees conveying bad news to tired, frustrated passengers would adopt an attitude between apologetic and obsequious.
Even at New York City’s JFK Airport, perhaps the planet’s second most impolite bit of real estate after New York’s own Port Authority Bus Terminal, where employees check in their manners when they clock in, like passengers do their baggage, the clerk would remember the person they were talking to was paying their salary.
“I hope ju had a good flight, Sorr,” they might say, “but I got some bad news: jor bags didn’t have any flight at all. We are berry eh-sorry, so we gonna give ju dobble air miles.”
Not in Barbados. Not with Caribbean Airlines.
In Barbados, you have to figure out your bags have been left behind on your own. The thought first crosses your mind after you’ve been standing at the unmoving carousel long enough for the first lucky passenger who got his bag to get to St Lucy; and unpack; and go for a swim; at Accra.
But then you see several others from your flight, standing there as stupidly as you, and think: “Nah, not even BeeWee could forget so many bags!” (But they didn’t “forget” them, they took them off! One suitcase left behind is an accident; a dozen is a policy.)
In Barbados, after you and your miserable companions have been staring at the immobile conveyor belt for 15 minutes, a young woman, whose hobby is to move stray passengers around an airport, strolls up to the person next to you and, without identifying herself or apologizing, begins a long spiel about the airline responsibly maintaining “bags-to-passengers ratio”.
Common sense or any aeronautical engineer will tell you it’s nonsense: the bag-to-passenger ratio is plain, it’s just that the airline has chosen to grossly distort it in someone else’s favour; and, having taken your money in Trinidad, they now take you for a fool in Barbados.
“Is my name on the list?” I asked.
She raised an eyebrow and then a hand, commanding me to halt.
“I am now rounding up passengers,” she said, sternly. “When I have you all together, we will go over there” – she waved in the direction of Oistins – where you will all fill out forms and after that I will tell you what you do next.”
Is a good thing I didn’t have a bag; because I would have cold-cocked her with it right then. But my troubles had only just begun.