As Barbadian Antonio Layne prepared to fly his family back home on September 9 following a two-and-a-half week holiday in New York, little did he realize the frustration they would have to endure due to the passage of Hurricane Irma.
After all, they were flying on JetBlue and neither Barbados nor New York had been affected by the storm.
However, when the dangerous Irma swept through the northern Caribbean and the US state of Florida, leaving behind a trail of destruction, it also knocked several airports offline.
As a result, JetBlue said it was forced to cancel some 900 flights between Monday of this week and tomorrow, as airports come online and the low cost carrier moves crews and aircraft back to Florida.
The end result was a dizzying exercise in travel gymnastics, which took Layne and his family 190 miles north east of New York to Boston, and back again.
“We checked in from New York to Boston and then to Barbados. We got on the plane, they took us to Boston and when we got there they said our flight was cancelled. And then they said the only thing available was next week Friday. I couldn’t believe it because my children had to get back to school. But they said nothing was available,” Layne explained.
With little to no chance of getting home from Boston, they decided to make their way back to New York where they would stay with relatives.
From there, Layne said, he encountered much frustration as he tried for days to get a flight out so his children could get to school.
It took quite some trying, but Layne finally succeeded, although they had to fly out on different flights.
“It took some time but my niece, she got out Monday night, my son and my mother got out this [Wednesday] morning and my wife and daughter are going tomorrow [Thursday]. I actually ended up taking a flight to North Carolina for a work trip,” Layne, who works in finance, told Barbados TODAY from North Carolina.
Most maddening for Layne about the delays was the fact that his children would not be home on time for the start of the new school year, particularly his son, who was beginning secondary school this year.
“My son is now starting Queen’s College, so he now going school Thursday for the first time. I called the school and let them know what’s going on and they were really accommodating. They just said to write a letter when I get back. My daughter goes to Harrison College, and she will start on Friday,” he said.
The experience was one no one should be made to endure, Layne said, especially when travelling with children.
“I spent a whole day at the airport in Boston, they didn’t give us food, nothing. Obviously it was weather related so JetBlue isn’t going to put you up or give you food, anything like that. They knew the flights were cancelled so why put us through all that, letting us go to Boston then back to JFK? To me that part was poor.
“Then to have to call the airline all the time, sometimes you had to hold on for like an hour just to hear nothing is available. I was persistent though. As soon as I hung up I called back,” he said.
While Layne did not have to travel through Florida, where Irma left behind a trail of debris, flooding and power outages, broadcaster Vic Fernandes was in the state when the hurricane struck.
He had been visiting the central city of Orlando with his wife and daughter, and they were due back here last Friday.
Instead, they will have to wait until Sunday at the earliest, to fly home.
“My best bet is that I’m now going to be getting home on the 17th of September. It’s been challenging. Along the way you have to constantly rebook flights,” he told Barbados TODAY.
When it became clear that the state would be hit, they thought of trying to get a flight home from Miami.
However, with virtually everyone else trying to get out at the last minute, and with the authorities ordering a mandatory lockdown, a flight to Barbados was out of the question.
Therefore, they accepted their fate, and prepared accordingly for the killer storm.
“We ensured we had food and water. It took a while to get because everywhere you went people had taken all the water and so on, so we had to go from place to place looking for some. It was quite an experience riding out a category five hurricane [it was a strong category four when it reached Florida]. We hardly slept that night because of the howling,” he explained.
Fernandes said though, based on what he went through, there were many lessons that Barbadians could learn from Florida.
“I’ve observed the level of preparedness here in Florida by the authorities. I’ve seen a level of preparedness I never thought I would have been exposed to. The level of organization, the kind of detail they look in to. We could learn a lot from these folks because one day our turn will come and when it does being prepared is probably the single most important thing you could do during a hurricane. The Floridians definitely take hurricanes very seriously,” he said.