Scores of people hoping to get to Miami from Piarco International Airport were getting ready to board their flight around 3 pm yesterday when they were turned back and told to leave the departure gate.
Moments earlier, United States President Donald Trump had grounded all Boeing 737 Max planes with immediate effect, leaving those passengers who were set to leave for the United States at 3.25 pm on American Airlines flight number 2703 stranded at Piarco.
Another flight destined to leave Miami for Port-of-Spain at 5.55 pm (on Wednesday) yesterday, flight number 2713, was also cancelled.
To compound matters for many of the passengers, officials were not immediately available to clarify what would happen next, leading to a slight furore at the desk. Police were called in to ensure that the situation did not escalate.
One passenger with a ticket for the 3.25 flight bought via the miles system was told to cancel the ticket and seek a refund. However, he like many did not know when they would get another flight on the airline out of Trinidad. He said the next available flight to him was listed as March 30.
However, AA officials at the Port-of-Spain ticket centre told the T&T Guardian that the airline would be working to ensure their service is not disrupted tomorrow. The supervisor at the facility said the airline will assess its options with regards to equipment to ensure their flights from Trinidad and Tobago will not be affected. They urged passengers scheduled to leave Trinidad on flights with the airline to check their website for updates about their schedule.
American Airlines also posted a statement in the wake of the US President’s decision. It said: “On March 13, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all US-registered Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, including the 8 and 9 variants, as a precautionary measure. This includes the 24 MAX 8 aircraft in the American Airlines fleet. We are complying with the FAA directive.”
AA said it operates 85 flights per day on the MAX 8, out of 6,700 departures throughout the American Airlines system.
The company defended its safety record and also list its statistics using the Boeing aircraft stating, “American has flown more than 2.5 million passengers — during 46,400 operating hours encompassing nearly 18,000 flights — safely on our MAX 8 fleet since the first one was delivered September 2017 and began commercial service later that November.”
The online post added, “We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause some of our customers. Our team will work with all customers impacted by these flight cancellations in order to rebook them to their final destination. Affected customers may rebook themselves on aa.com by retrieving their reservation or using our mobile app. If a flight is cancelled, customers may request a full refund by visiting our website. Customers who booked through a travel agent are requested to contact their agency directly.”
Countries that grounded the Boeing Aircraft included Australia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Oman, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom, USA and Trinidad and Tobago.
In a statement on social media yesterday, Minister of Finance Colm Imbert said, “Until American Airlines can find other planes, the MIA-POS route is suspended, since AA was using the Max 8 for the TT route. But CAL will continue to fly its 737-800s.”
Caribbean Airlines corporate communication manager Dionne Ligoure meanwhile said it was too early to say if the local airline would see an increase in passengers as a result of Trump’s decision.
She said, “Caribbean Airlines offers the most services to South Florida, and is open for business and will happily transport anyone willing to travel to and from Miami. We continue to closely monitor our inventory and bookings in this regard.”