On Sunday, July 5th, 2009 our daughter's aunt - after several calls to LIAT in Barbados, Antigua and St. Vincent from Friday to Sunday - found a non-managerial LIAT employee who was most helpful.
This customer service champion within LIAT asked us to come to the airport that morning. By afternoon, after a few minor moments of uncertainty, our daughter was trotting through Immigration in the company of this wonderful LIAT employee. Our daughter was actually accompanied on the plane by a lady her aunt knew. However, the LIAT employee also had a travelling mother available as a possible in-flight companion.
On Monday, July 6th, 2009 we were grateful to have or correspondence acknowledged by phone calls, clarifications and apologies from LIAT's management.
On the evening of Friday, July 3rd, 2009 I had the displeasure of dealing with LIAT and observing suspect business ethics, suspect arithmetic and an unprofessional game of musical chairs with confirmed and paid carriage reservations.
Our 3-year old daughter was confirmed to travel to St. Vincent & the Grenadines on scheduled 9:10 pm departure of LIA369 flight out of Barbados. Her Aunt had booked the ticket from St. Vincent and managed to squeeze her on the same flight as one of our Vincy Mas bound friends about 9 days prior. Our friend’s ticket was booked about a month prior. Being under 5 years of age she must be accompanied by a caretaker, and cannot be the flight attendant’s responsibility. By this, we mean her ticket had to be associated with our friend’s ticket (an explicit reference on our daughter’s ticket).
Our daughter and the accompanying adult arrived at check-in at approximately 8:08 pm - over 1 hour before flight departure. On check-in we were informed that there are two persons to be checked in but only one seat available. Additionally, the check-in agent said she would confer with her supervisor on the issue. Our suggestions that were shot down included asking about 1) accommodating someone in the jump seat in order to make a fit and 2) some type of double seating of our friend and daughter. The final statement was that they could not be both accommodated on the flight.
Mainly because we did not want to disadvantage our young friend’s carnival schedule we indicated to her that she should take the seat before the check-in window expired. After all the discussions with the counter agents, our friend was checked-in. Our daughter’s ticket was thus cancelled by the counter agents (there being no other alternative) but we were unable to reschedule her flight on account of not knowing any other accompanying adult on a later flight.
As far as we know, check-in closes 45 minutes prior to the flight’s departure time. Thus, we made it to the check-in counter within the stipulated time. When presented with comments on how the situation is unfair and questions on why this situation would occur, a LIAT counter agent indicated that overbooking was industry practice. She further explained that this was carnival season and a time of high traffic to that particular destination and with the overbooking it behooves passengers to check-in as early to avoid such situations. She indicated that we had a 2 hour check-in window and we arrived last to check-in. She stated she does not know the overbooking ratio.
This flight was the last of the day between Barbados and St. Vincent. At the counter we were informed it was delayed and would be departing around 11 pm. While we were still at the counter, we overheard a counter agent tell a baggage handler the flight was closed. Just after that most of the staff started to disperse. There was however a single adult lady intended to go to St. Vincent still lingering at the counter. That lady was not on the flight for which our friend was supposedly the final person to check-in for the last available seat. We left her at the counter, but it would be interesting to know what happened next for her.
We consider the LIAT’s representative explanation unsatisfactory. Clearly LIAT’s procedures or flight reservation system would have to be faulty to permit this particular situation. Overbooking cannot be an appropriate explanation because whilst one may conceivably allow more bookings than there are seats, one should not allow more confirmed reservations on a flight than there are seats.
LIAT is a plane and the ability to carry each passenger should be determined by seating capacity and informed by the passenger type (child or adult, which probably informs on estimated weights and seating arrangements). Simply put, the most reasonable conclusion is that our 3-year old daughter - a Vincentian national, returning home - got bumped from the flight to accommodate someone else who was allowed to check-in prior or after.