Fly Jamaica fails to meet deadline for payment to stranded-passengers

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Stranded Fly Jamaica passengers are calling on local authorities to assist them in getting a refund from the now suspended airline, eight months after they purchased tickets to travel.

The aggrieved passengers believe that while the Government is pushing to increase airlines operating the local market, it also has to ensure they are held accountable.

Fly Jamaica, through the Competition and Consumer Affairs Division of the Ministry of Business, had said that the passengers will be refunded by July 01.

With yesterday being a holiday, the customers on Tuesday visited the airline’s Ogle, East Coast Demerara (ECD) office but efforts to speak with the manager proved futile.

They subsequently travelled to the Competition and Consumer Affairs Division located at the Sophia Exhibition site, demanding their money. Each passenger is owed close to $200,000.

They walked with placards bearing slogans such as ‘Fly Jamaica we need our money –refund us now’, ‘Fly Jamaica is fraud, the Government should be alerted’, ‘Consumers Affairs, you need to look into this matter’, ‘Fly Jamaica is crooks, we need our money now.’

Mark Szala

One customer, Mark Szala said the passengers formed a group and met with Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson and officials from the Ministry of the Presidency earlier in the year but nothing was done.

“I am infuriated because I don’t know what is the next move,” Szala said.

“We need to know what is going on,” Szala said as he showed the News Room copies of his ticket purchased from the airline on September 14, 2018.

Another passenger, Mohamed Jamaludeen of Lusignan, East Coast Demerara (ECD) said he purchased a ticket for his son to travel in November 2018 and was later made to purchase an additional ticket for a chartered flight. He was not refunded for either of the tickets.

“I had to book a ticket from another airline to bring my son home.”

Mohamed Jamaludeen

Shamina Doodnauth told the News Room that she booked her ticket to travel in December 2018. She then booked an extension after she was told by Fly Jamaica staff in New York that their service will resume soon.

“I had to pay Caribbean Airlines almost US$1,000 to get back home or else I would have lost my job and then they would not compensate me or pay my bills,” she said.

The teacher said, “every time I go to the office, I have to take a day from my job, I lose my salary, the people kids are left alone.”

“We need our money today,” she said.

Shamina Doodnauth

The News Room contacted the Consumer Affairs Division where an officer said that Fly Jamaica promised on May 2, 2019, to refund all passengers on July 1, 2019, and committed to doing so up to last week.

She said not realizing that that date was a holiday (CARICOM Day), the agency accepted the deadline.

However, she told the News Room that efforts to contact Fly Jamaica on Tuesday proved futile. The woman said the Division will continue trying to make contact with the agency’s officials during this week to resolve the issue.

When contacted, Director General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Egbert Field told the News Room Tuesday that several letters from passengers were sent to the GCCA which were forwarded to the Consumer Affairs Division.

He explained that while unscheduled carriers are required to lodge a bond which can be used to repay passengers and staff in such cases, scheduled carriers like Fly Jamaica are not required to do same thus making it hard for the Government to assist in these circumstances.

The airline suspended its operation at the end of March 2019 by sending home all of its staff. The decision to suspend the airline’s operations came almost five months after its flight, OJ256 with 118 passengers and eight crew members, crash-landed at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport.

On June 11, the Ministry of Social Protection’s Department of Labour met with ex-employees of Fly Jamaica to hear their concerns since they are owed salaries and benefits.

Subsequently, on June 18, the airline issued the staff with letters along with a breakdown of monies owed to them. The airline promised to meet their obligations but did not give a timeline by which they hope to do so.

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