For dozens of American Airlines passengers at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA), Wednesday afternoon was filled with chaos and confusion after all flights using the now notorious Boeing 737 max 8 aircraft were cancelled.
Flight 1089, which was scheduled to leave Barbados at 3:35 p.m. bound for the Miami International Airport was grounded indefinitely leaving scores of scheduled passengers in shambles.
“One aircraft is currently grounded in Barbados. Some customers were moved from the flight, which is going through Charlotte. The flight which was scheduled to arrive in Barbados tonight has also been cancelled,” said Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the GAIA Inc., Terry Layne.
Barbados TODAY understands the aircraft, which carries approximately 210 passengers was booked at near maximum capacity. Others scheduled to leave Miami for Barbados were also cancelled.
On its website AA called attention to the interruption of its services in compliance with a directive from the Federal Aviation Administration. The airline noted that it operates 85 flights a day using the Max 8. “Our operations centre is working to re-route aircraft throughout the systems to cover as much of our schedule as we can,” the update on its website said.
The airline added: “The safety and security of our team members and our customers remain our top priority. We continue to have the utmost confidence in our fleet which is flown by our highly-trained pilots and maintained by our highly-skilled maintenance team.”
On Wednesday afternoon, passengers recounted being stranded in the departure lounge at GAIA with no explanation for why they had not yet left the island. American Airlines customer service agents appeared unprepared to respond to the problem as passengers, many of them visitors to the island, complained about waiting in line for up to three hours with no word on where they would spend the night and what time they would be reaching their final destination. When Barbados TODAY left the airport, they were still waiting.
“It’s frustrating because we were within one hour of boarding our flight. Now the airline counter is understaffed, the airlines are not prepared for this and we booked on the same type of aircraft tomorrow, so we’ve got to go through this tomorrow,” said one frustrated passenger whose final destination is Pennsylvania.
The middle-aged man claimed he attempted to get a JetBlue flight, but was unable to do so, because he could not retrieve his baggage from American Airlines personnel.
“Now, I just want to get a voucher for a hotel room, but I know we’ll be working on that all night. We’ve been in line for three hours. I haven’t had a chance to speak with these agents and I don’t have a clue because there’s no communication. It happened suddenly, it’s not their fault, it’s our President, who declared a national emergency on this aircraft that’s flying perfectly fine.
He however admitted: “Maybe it’s a precaution that maybe I’ll be thankful they made, but right now I think it’s unwarranted.”
The tough decision to ground its entire global fleet of 737 Max aircraft was taken by Boeing after investigators uncovered new evidence at the scene of the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash which killed 157 people in Addis Ababa on Sunday.
On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Mia Mottley commented on the rapid developments while at the opening ceremony for the Kooyman Mega Store Project at Kendal Hill, Christ Church.
She said: “The American Airlines flight that was due to leave at 6:10 this evening has been cancelled. It has been cancelled because the Federal Aviation Authority of the United States of America, like others across the world, has taken decisions to be able to ground the 737 planes after the two air crashes of the last six months.
“That will of necessity impact on us because American Airlines which flies out of Miami three times daily and has as you know 23 of those aircraft among its fleet.”
The United Kingdom, the European Union, China, India and Australia all grounded the aircraft prior to the U.S. Boeing later suspended all 371 of the aircraft globally.
Some of the other stranded passengers at the GAIA embraced the unexpected change of plans indicating that they preferred to be safe rather than sorry.
“It happens, we don’t have a problem. American Airlines has been good with us. We’ll go and read some books, stay another night in this beautiful country and fly back to the States tomorrow,” said Eddy Long who was delayed with his wife, Joy Long.
“My wife said it best, ‘I’d rather find out what the problem is in the hangar than in the black box,’” he said with a chuckle.
He further revealed that American Airlines had promised to pay for their room overnight, rebook their flights and get them out of Barbados in the morning.
His wife added: “The world’s not going to stop because we had to spend one more night in Barbados. Our family will survive.”
AA took possession of its first Max 8 aircraft in September 2017 and started flying them commercially in November of that year. The airline noted that it has flown 18 000 flights with 2.5 million passengers on the now grounded planes.