Air Jamaica — Air Jamaica confirmed almost every bad thing we had heard
For the most part, the letter which follows is self-explanatory. Air Jamaica did not respond to it and even refused to give us our Delta frequent flier miles for this trip by just not posting them and not responding to requests to do so. Happily, Delta took care of that for us (Delta and Air Jamaica are in a code sharing alliance).
Please use my Email for any responses.
December 15, 2004
Air Jamaica Customer Relations Office
4 St. Lucia Avenue
Jamaica, W. I.
We have just returned from a Curacao vacation and would like to share with you our experiences with your organization. On November 30 we were on your flight JM18 from Newark to Montego Bay which was supposed to leave at 7:15AM.
Although the flight was obviously full and the waiting area crowded with both people and baggage, boarding began late and we soon realized that we would not depart on time. Once everyone was finally on board, the pilot made the usual pre-departure announcements and noted that the large amount of checked baggage required extra time to load. He said he would let us know when we were ready to depart.
A flurry of activity with your people hurrying up and down the aisle told us there was another problem which we eventually were told was due to a sick passenger. After a while the passenger was removed and her seating area cleaned up. Since we still weren't moving I told one of the stewardesses that we had a 12:35PM connection from Montego Bay to Curacao and we were concerned that we might not make it. I was assured that we would make the connection because it would be held for us. During the course of the next hour or two this conversation was repeated with the other stewardesses who specifically said that the connecting flight 'is ours and we will hold it for you'.
Since the connecting flight was the only one from Jamaica to Curacao that day and there was none the next day, we were ready to leave the plane and try to find another flight, perhaps on American Airlines, so that we would not lose a day from our vacation and not lose the non-refundable room charge for that day. Your staff's assurances were all that kept us on that plane. It was about 9:30AM when the plane finally began to move, all four pieces of checked luggage belonging to the sick passenger had been found and removed.
We arrived in Montego Bay at 12:45PM and were met at the gate by your agent who, instead of guiding us to our waiting Curacao flight, told us that it had left at 12:35PM -- just ten minutes before we arrived. She said they had to leave because they were already late, which is obviously not true since that flight's scheduled departure time was 12:35PM. It left us behind because no one in your organization cared about us or the other Curacao passengers.
We were, of course, furious for having been lied to so blatantly by your flight crew and for being treated so shabbily by your airline. The agent added insult to injury by telling us we would have to either fly to Miami or Bonaire, spend the night and then be flown to Curacao. Obviously, we would lose a day and be charged for the room your airline prevented us from using. Your agent gave us a choice of going to Miami and catching a flight the next day that would arrive in Curacao at about 3PM or going to Bonaire and catching a flight that got into Curacao after 7PM. Of course, we opted for Miami, as did the other two people in the same situation.
Your agent did a good job of making all of the flight arrangements, booking us a room at the Miami Airport hotel, providing meal vouchers, rerouting our luggage, and at our request, changing our return flights so we could stay another day (we called our hotel and they extended our stay at the per night room rate). She adamantly refused to provide payment for our Curacao hotel night and the extra day's parking fee at Newark Airport nor would she do anything to compensate us for the grief and aggravation or the lost day saying she was not authorized to do so.
Once at our Curacao resort, we feared another Air Jamaica problem on our return flights. We therefore called Air Jamaica four days before we left Curacao and confirmed our revised return reservations and even confirmed our seat numbers. Luckily, we arrived at Curacao's airport very early so that when your counter agent told us upon checking in that we had no reservations, there was time (barely it turned out) to fix that problem. Interestingly when she and her supervisor put in a new set of reservations for us, your computer system refused to accept them, saying it could not have two reservations for the same person. Eventually that was straightened out and we boarded the flight. Except for a lengthy hold which brought fears that Air Jamaica would again cause us to miss our connection, the flight was uneventful. We just made our Montego Bay to Newark flight, being the last to board.
In retrospect, had your flight crew not lied to us in Newark while the plane was still at the gate and the door open, we would very likely have left the plane and that would probably have caused them more problems. The obvious conclusion is that they lied to avoid this and keep us on the plane. Further, it appears that lying in this type of situation is part of their training -- they did it so smoothly and even smiled. All things considered, we feel very strongly that we were taken advantage of by the flight crew and by your airline for causing this grief and then not making it 'right'. We expected a screw-up on our return flight and tried to allow for it by giving up our last day 'beach time' to get to the airport early. Had we not done so we may well have missed our Curacao - Montego Bay flight.
Interestingly, while we fly to the Caribbean yearly we avoided Air Jamaica because of the horror stories told by some of your passengers and people in the travel business. On the unfortunate assumption that things must have changed by now, we decided to give your airline a try. Air Jamaica confirmed almost every bad thing we had heard.
If you had our experience with Air Jamaica would you fly the airline again? What you do to make up for what happened will very likely determine our choice of airlines to the Caribbean in the future.
Very truly yours,