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Dear editor: CAL customers need independent body to investigate service complaints

“If Caribbean Airlines truly wishes to pride itself on the service it offers, what can be the objection to ensuring transparency and accountability in its operations, so that there is a proper avenue afforded to a dissatisfied passenger to speak to an appropriate representative and have access to any prepared report should that become necessary?”

The following Letter to the Editor on the supposed poor systems of redress for Caribbean Airlines customers was submitted to Wired868 by Anthony DJ Gafoor:

Photo: Passengers aboard a commercial airline.
(Copyright Getty)

To what extent are public bodies and institutions and the persons who work for them accountable to the public?

There are several bodies in Trinidad and Tobago who take it upon themselves to investigate a complaint internally with the obvious challenge that such bodies may seek to cover up wrongdoing on the part of its employees so as to preserve their reputation. A case in point is Caribbean Airlines.

It is now virtually impossible to lodge a complaint against the airline by speaking to someone. If one attempts to do so, it seems that the policy is to refer one to its website to lodge a written complaint.

If you are fortunate at all to receive a bland acknowledgment, what then seems to follow is a promise of an internal investigation almost inevitably followed by various platitudes from nameless persons that ‘the airline seeks to ensure that one’s complaint will be taken into account’ and then reassurances that the airline ‘offers excellence in its service delivery’.

Their ‘fake apology’ is then based on the complainant’s perception that s/he received poor service, such as ‘we are sorry that you feel you did not receive the service you expected’.

However, if a member of the cabin crew issues instructions which are unreasonable or make no sense, it seems that, as passengers, we are not entitled to question it. If we do, we are deemed to be endangering lives by disobeying instructions and airport security can be alerted. Passengers have very little scope for a fair hearing at that stage.

Photo: A CAL aircraft.

No entity, let alone a state entity supported by taxpayers’ contributions, should be allowed to act as a law unto itself. Passengers deserve independent investigation which takes place outside the airline itself or to whom a complaint can be referred, such as an ombudsman.

If Caribbean Airlines truly wishes to pride itself on the service it offers, what can be the objection to ensuring transparency and accountability in its operations, so that there is a proper avenue afforded to a dissatisfied passenger to speak to an appropriate representative and have access to any prepared report should that become necessary?

It is high time for Caribbean Airlines to be more accountable to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, rather than putting layers of bureaucracy between the passenger and those who manage it.

As Nova Scotia-based consumer advocate, Gabor Lukacs, a specialist in fighting for passenger rights, puts it:

“Many of the good values we have as Canadians… we are respectful, we are patient, we are kind to each other… the airlines are exploiting those against us… Currently the airlines can do almost what they want unless someone is willing to stand up to them and fight them in court.” (Haydn Watters, CBC News, 21st December 2016).

Indeed the same can be said for the people of Trinidad and Tobago as things currently stand. This must change!

Photo: A flight attendant on the job.
(Copyright Mark Skalny 2014)

Caribbean Airlines response: Caribbean Airlines seeks to provide its customers with a positive experience as it operates within the framework of one of the most highly regulated industries. Firstly, to be investigated, complaints must be received in writing, hence the reason customers are directed to fill out the appropriate forms online.

Once the written document is received depending on the internal stakeholders involved a process of internal investigation follows.

The company has a time-frame which is governed by international standards to complete this process. Once the internal process is complete the company contacts the customer. Having not had the benefit of details of this situation I am unable to provide any further particulars, only to state that the airline operates in compliance with international industry standards in dealing with our valued customers.

I am hopeful that this situation once we have the benefit of details can be addressed in line with appropriate processes.

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Letters to the Editor
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