Haitian community complains about treatment by Insel Air

POSTED: 12/17/14 3:13 PM

St. Maarten – The Haitian community has a beef with Insel Air. This appears from statement by the president of the community, Jestan Guerrier, a long-time resident of St. Maarten. He feels that the airline is always putting passengers traveling to Porte au Prince on the backburner as soon as Insel Air needs planes to solve issue on other routes, like SXM-Miami or SXM-Santo Domingo.

Guerrier says that the treatment he and his fellow-countrymen have to endure is due to the lack of competition on the route to Haiti. “They treat us the way they want to,” he said, yesterday. “They cancel our flights for any reason.

On August 23, Guerrier was booked to fly to Haiti. ‘It was a Saturday,” he remembers. “There was a big group at the airport, waiting for the flight to leave around 1 p.m. By 7 p.m. they canceled our flight and we were told to come back on August 27.”

But on that day, there was no flight either. The airline appeased frustrated passengers with a voucher for a pizza, to be taken from Domino’s. “I don’t eat pizza,” Guerrier says. “They should give us a meal voucher that we can use for what we want to eat.”

That day, by 7 p.m., the crowd waiting for the flight became restless and the Insel Air staff decided to call the police. “People were frustrated,” Guerrier says. “Two police officers arrived, a man and a young woman. The male officer got upset because people were talking tough to him. Instead of being nice to us, he took out his handcuffs and was about to arrest some people. His female colleague calmed things down – she was very nice.”

Insel Air postponed the flight again, this time to the following day, August 28. “We were told to come to the airport at 9 a.m. and they started checking in passengers. There was however also a flight for the Dominican Republic and suddenly, by 10 a.m. they stopped checking in passengers for our flight and started handling those passengers.”

That was not the end of it: only by 1 p.m., Guerrier says, Insel Air  picked up where it had left off at 10 a.m. – even though the flight for Haiti was scheduled to leave around that time. “We stayed at the airport until 9 p.m.,” Guerrier says. “Finally, by 10 p.m. we took off but that meant we landed in Haiti around midnight. That is not a good idea – it is dangerous out there at night.”

Guerrier said that he had also received reports from Haitians who wanted to travel to their country on a one-way ticket. “They were refused a one-way ticket,” Guerrier says, adding that some people refer to travel that way because they do not have the money for a return-ticket.

This last claim seems odd, because the Insel Air website does offer one-way tickets from St. Maarten to Haiti. For instance, a one-way ticket for Wednesday January 14 was priced yesterday at $310.20. Traveling on the Tuesday before that date and on the Friday after it is cheaper: $246.20 and a ticket for the following Saturday for the 1 hour and 20 minutes flight is $278.20.

A roundtrip ticket for January 14 with return one week later is $555.71.

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