A group of students on layover in Barbados were left confused and frustrated on Tuesday, when St Vincent-based airline Fly One Caribbean was barred from providing commercial service to Grenada.
The group of Grenadians including ten students from the University of the West Indies’ Mona campus left Jamaica on Monday aboard a Caribbean Airlines flight bound for Barbados. They had also purchased tickets for a connecting flight to Grenada on Fly One Caribbean – one of the companies helping to fill a void in regional travel left by the ailing LIAT.
But after landing at the Grantley Adams International Airport and undergoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing, the group was shocked to learn that their flight had been cancelled.
With very few options available to them, the group slept with their suitcases at the airport’s outdoor dining area near the Airport’s Chefette Restaurant with no idea what the future would hold.
“They are saying that Grenada has revoked the permission that they gave them and they are only accepting charters and repatriation flights and not just regular commercial flights. So we are looking to see how this issue could be resolved, because we are here in Barbados with not many options,” President of the UWI Mona’s Grenada Students’ Association Jose Martha Bowen told Barbados TODAY.
The Grenadian students’ representative added that senior government officials in the ‘Spice Isle’ had informed her that “serious issues and concerns” were preventing authorities from granting Fly One Caribbean permission to land the commercial flight.
Grenada reportedly re-opened its borders to regional carriers on July 15, including commercial service from Caribbean Airlines, SVG Air, and interCaribbean Airways.
But when contacted, Director of Operations for the Grenada Airport Authority [GAA] Christina Joseph confirmed that there were no scheduled commercial flights between Barbados and Grenada on Tuesday.
She however said: “I know that Caribbean Airlines is in negotiations with the government to regularize scheduled operations into Grenada.”
When asked why such discussions were not taking place with Fly One Caribbean, Joseph directed this newspaper to Grenada’s Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Hours later, she contacted Barbados TODAY and indicated that the Fly One Caribbean flight would now be categorized as a charter and would be allowed to land on Tuesday night.
But as the saga was unfolding, the students’ spokesperson expressed frustration with the state of free movement and an apparent lack of unity among CARICOM players.
“Even at Mona, we were told that repatriation was going to be done on a CARICOM basis. So we were waiting for the CARICOM arrangement, but what we realized is that each country was actually taking their nationals from Mona and we were left all alone . . . even though we live so close to Barbados, Trinidad [and Tobago] and St Vincent [and the Grenadines]” she told Barbados TODAY.
“I think we were the only group from Mona that was left to find our way back, and that was sad and disappointing. When you look at what is happening with LIAT, it shows that integration is really dwindling and I wish that our leaders would get it in their spirit, and realize the true meaning of integration and bring it to fulfillment,” Bowen added.
The group had taken advantage of an opportunity to book their tickets home with Fly One Caribbean in an effort to flee Jamaica as cases of COVID-19 continued climbing. According to Bowen, an official with Fly One Caribbean had assured the group that their flight to Grenada was confirmed
“We had been trying to get home for months now, and we are doing it on our own because there is no repatriation policy. So we had to look for ways to get home because our funds were running out. We had to decide whether we will spend the last of our money on flights, food or accommodation, but there is no place sweeter than home,” she said.
In a statement, Fly One Caribbean spokesperson Dale Miller confirmed that a flight bound for Grenada at around 6 p.m. would be allowed to land at the Maurice Bishop Airport.
He added: “Discussions are continuing with respect to when scheduled commercial flights into Grenada will be launched by OCL Barbados, but in the interim, all flights are handled under Corona protocols as repatriation flights,” Miller told Barbados TODAY.
OCL Barbados has been granted permission to service Grenada under their repatriation protocols and awaits final decision on when scheduled commercial flights will commence,” he added. [email protected]