Trip disaster management official to Aruba with DAE ends in disaster

POSTED: 05/5/11 12:13 PM

St. Maarten– The trip of disaster management officials to a disaster risk reduction conference in Aruba hit a snag yesterday when a Dutch Antillean Airlines flight from St. Maarten to Curacao was delayed and officials missed a connecting flight to Aruba. Paul Martens, head the disaster management office in St. Maarten was already in Aruba, but his colleague from Montserrat, Billy Darroux was not so lucky.

“I had the misfortune of flying for the first time with Dutch Antilles Express on May 04, and will regrettably never forget the ordeal,” Darroux wrote in an email to The Today Newspaper. This is his account of what happened:

“A flight to Curacao was delayed and passengers with connections to Aruba had no information on what to do, while passengers for Bonaire and Bogota were allowed to leave the aircraft in advance.  When we arrived in Curacao, no DAE agent met the passengers who were by then late for their connections.  At 2:45 PM other passengers and I sought out staff that diligently made inquiries and told us that the flight was delayed until 9:45 PM and that we would get meal vouchers.

At 5:20 PM passengers had to seek out junior staff members who were obviously inexperienced and unable to make decisions about what was happening. They gave vouchers and made every effort to comfort staff, but had no information.  Among the passengers were two wheel chair bound adults, some elderly persons and several young children and infants.

Passengers were given one update before 5:00 PM. At 9:45 PM when the counter was opened, two junior members of staff had to make decisions on the fly and were stuck between irate and impatient passengers and some obviously unreliable and indecisive supervisors.  The process involved asking passengers to volunteer to remain behind, then attempting to arrange flights while being bombarded by the tired and impatient parents of tired and hungry infants.  The result was near chaos which sapped the young staff.  Both young ladies ended up in tears after they had done all they could to assist the passengers.

Adding insult to injury was the fact that the supervisor who arrived after midnight with the arrogance and contemptuous attitude towards persons present.

She spoke in the native language, and several of us asked for translations which she did not bother to give.  An explanation in English was done by some considerate security personnel and the now tired junior staff who continued to assist.

At 3:00 AM a dozen passengers are still sitting at the airport, hungry and tired as one would expect.  Many were to attend a UNDP Disaster Risk Reduction conference and training in Aruba. The entire team of participants had to miss the beginning of a conference.

While delays are expected with airlines, the trail of events from the delay in St. Maarten, then Curacao and the resultant trips between the tarmac and lounge were extremely unpleasant.  Insult met injury when no supervisory or management level personnel saw it important enough to share information with passengers, do welfare checks or attempt to expedite the process.  This is beyond what even the most patient passengers are expected to endure.

There has been no reasonable response from the management of DAE to mitigate the hardship infants, toddlers, elderly and physically challenged had to endure.

Several of my colleagues have sworn not to travel with your airline for our future business trips.  The actions of management have been irresponsible and insulting to passengers, and in our collective. An apology may be a good starting point to make the amends that can place that airline in good stead with the persons affected, and their loved ones.”


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