The Adrian Loveridge Column – Stalled @GAIA
I frequently wonder if those who guide our tourism industry really understand the basics which make it work, at all. Arriving on schedule at 9.45 pm the American Airlines flight last Monday, we dutifully filed off the plane and took our place in the queue for immigration.
The flight was close to full, so on a B737 Max 8, this amounted to around 172 passengers plus crew. Just after 10 pm, one or more immigration officers simply left their post and went off duty, leaving a skeleton staff to process the remaining 50 per cent or so off this flight.
This flight was not a one-off charter, but a scheduled service, where all involved know that it is going to arrive daily at close to the advertised time.
When my turn eventually came, I respectfully asked the immigration officer if there had been a shift change at 10 pm and she stated yes, adding that at least some of those finishing their term duty had to get a bus.
Not at all unreasonable in my humble opinion given the knowledge that if you miss one bus there may not necessarily be a later option to ensure they get home. But surely this is a critical consideration for management, who have to ensure the ‘system’ works, given the available resources?
With the hundred or so remaining passengers still waiting to clear immigration there is plenty of time to gaze in wonderment at the rows of still idle Automated Passport Kiosks. The actual cost of installing and possibly maintaining these machines still remains a mystery to the taxpayer and we cannot blame the current administration. However, the decision to purchase or lease them and the subsequent dismal failure to ensure they are fully operational must be somebodies responsibility.
Nearly four months ago the current Minister of Tourism was quoted in the media as stating ‘the effect as I understand it is that there should be an 88 per cent faster throughput in the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA), once this is implemented, than there is at present’.
A very impressive improvement in anyone’s estimation should this prediction, become a working reality.
Another factor, often ignored, is that the majority of our visitors do not live on the doorsteps of the airports which service us.
In my case last week, I left a sleepy Essex village at 5 am with three changes of train and underground, involving nearly 40 station stops to first reach Heathrow. Then a ten hour flight to Miami followed by the much improved passenger processing through US immigration and customs, before another 4 hour flight to reach Barbados, So nearly 24 hours before deplaning at GAIA.
While this may not be typical for many of our visitors, the vast majority have substantial pre-airport travelling and the last thing they want to endure, especially at night, is to be further delayed at immigration, baggage claim and customs checks.
It already seems to take an extraordinary amount of time to retrieve arriving checked baggage and with the ongoing closure of the customs Green Channel – ‘Nothing to Declare’ option, our cherished guests are being subjected to further delays.
Let us hope that these long running challenges will be fully remedied before the upcoming peak winter season, especially in light of announced increased airlift.
Otherwise even the most patient visitors may be tempted with their feet and perhaps next time, choose an alternative less hassle destination.