Almost 48 hours after departing the Miami International Airport on a Caribbean Airlines jet bound for T&T, the passengers of BW483 have arrived in the country.
BW3483 touched down at the Piarco International Airport at 2:26 am local time, today. The Caribbean Airlines Boeing 737-800, bearing registration 9Y-TAB, was initially expected to depart Puerto Rico at midnight and arrive at 1:50 am, but there was a delay on the ground for unknown reasons.
On arrival in Trinidad, the aircraft and its passengers were met by a Senior Caribbean Airlines Management team and letters given to every passenger. Each letter contained an apology from the airline and an offer of an Electronic Transportation Voucher. One passenger told Guardian Media they were offered a voucher valued at US$400.
Caribbean Airlines also sought to allay fears of being denied entry to T&T, telling passengers in an email sent before departure that PCR tests taken from Saturday, December 11th onward would be considered valid. However, those with PCR tests taken before December 11th would be quarantined at a state-approved hotel and retested at no cost. They will be released once their tests come back negative. Caribbean Airlines says it will cover all costs associated with hotel accommodation (meals and transportation) and PCR testing. Guardian Media understands affected passengers were taken to the Regent Star Hotel for testing and subsequent quarantine.
In an early morning press release, the airline apologised to affected passengers, saying the company intended to operate a relief flight on the same day the diversion occurred. The airline also reiterated that Puerto Rico is not a part of their regular route network.
“While support systems were in place on the island, several factors outside of the airline’s authority made the operation less efficient than planned,” CAL explained in its statement.
CAL says all passengers are now at their final destinations.
Caribbean Airlines flight 483 was diverted to Puerto Rico while en route to Port of Spain on December 13th because of a medical emergency. At the time, approximately 150 passengers were aboard the aircraft.
CAL’s Flight, BW483, was en route to the Piarco International Airport when about halfway through its journey, around 6 pm on Monday it landed in Puerto Rico after flight stewards alerted the captain of the medical emergency in which the passenger died.
Guardian Media was told that it was not until 8.15 pm that passengers and crew members were allowed to disembark the plane and more than 10 hours before they got an update.
CAL did not disclose what happened to the aircraft to prevent the passengers from travelling on to Trinidad, but said in a statement yesterday morning that another aircraft was sent to relieve the passengers by midnight Monday.
However, that aircraft was also unable to leave, due to circumstances outside of the airline’s control.
With every hour that passed, tensions rose among passengers who flooded the counter for answers on when they will be back in the air and on their way to their destination.
Desperation also kicked in for one passenger who was on her way to her father’s funeral.
Zorina Alli, a Guyanese national, sobbed as she spoke to Guardian Media yesterday morning pleading with CAL to take her home.
“They need me home… I hear my dad passed away on Saturday so I booked my ticket on Monday,” she cried.
She left on Monday on CAL’s flight BW483 en route to the Piarco International Airport. There, she was to meet her sisters and take another flight home to bid their final farewell to their father yesterday. She said relatives were trying to postpone the funeral until she got home.
The Customer Experience Team apologised to customers and by 10 am yesterday, offered hotel, meals and transportation at the airline’s expense assuring that it had been “working assiduously to get you to your final destination and are communicating with the relevant authorities toward this end”.
Some said they waited more that four gruelling hours for some relief.
“We haven’t seen a sip of water or grain of rice since then,” Michelle Michael-Jogie, a former WINTV Sports Anchor who was among the stranded passengers, told Guardian Media yesterday.
She said here were several elderlies, including a 94-year-old, waiting.
“When I checked in Miami, they offered that we send our hand luggage through cargo which we did, as well as a lot of elderly people did. Those elderly have their medication in that bag and we haven’t even gotten access to our baggage yet,” she indicated in an earlier interview with Guardian Media around 11:30 am yesterday.
By 3 pm, Michael-Jogie said they were shuttled to their hotel.
Around 4.40 pm, CAL sent an email to passengers informing them that a new flight, BW3483, would be at Terminal C, Gate 2 for a departure time of midnight. The flight was scheduled to arrive at the Piarco International Airport at 1.50 am today.