Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Shameless beyond re-cal

Published:Saturday | October 31, 2015 | 10:00 AMTony Deyal, Contributor

One day a drunk walked into a bar and ordered a gin and tonic. He drank half of it and, without any warning, poured the rest on the bartender. The bartender got very angry, grabbed the drunk by the collar and demanded, "Why did you do that?"

The drunk said very apologetically, "I am so very sorry, sir. Please forgive me. I can't help it. It's an illness I can't get rid of. I am so ashamed of it. How can I make it up to you?"

The bartender answered, "Haven't you seen anyone about this problem? You need psychiatric help." The drunk replied, "I never thought of that. Maybe I will." The bartender insisted, "Don't come back until you get help," and the drunk left.

About three months later, the drunk came back to the same bar, ordered another gin and tonic, drank half of it, and poured the rest of it on the bartender. The bartender shouted, "I thought I told you not to come back until you got help!" The drunk replied, "I did. Now I don't feel ashamed."

I have a feeling that Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) went to the same shrink. In fact, thinking about the way a former chairman of the predecessor airline, BWIA, supposedly and unapologetically kept a plane waiting for hours on the tarmac so he could visit his paramour in New York, and what happened to me on a flight that the pilot tried to bump me off to accommodate his family, I get the feeling that they not only never saw a shrink but never felt the need.

What all the various incarnations of the airline and all its managers, bosses, boards and big shots have in common is the lack of shame. In these days of remakes, I think of doing a new version of the old Alan Ladd-Jack Palance western movie, 'Shane', but changing the name of the hero to 'Shame'. In the end, the tow-headed Brandon De Wilde replacement chases the horseback hero shouting, "Shame, come back, Shame," and I would send it to CAL, not for the entertainment of its passengers but for the education of its staff and managers.

 

deepest depths

 

The most recent reason for this is the proud boast all over the Internet and the regional media by CAL that for the fourth year in a row, it has been named the Caribbean's Leading Airline, at the annual World Travel Awards function. It is like the West Indies cricket team playing a series against Guatemala and Honduras, being declared the tournament champions, and boasting to high heaven about it. Is this is as shameless as you can get? Actually, no.

If you want real shamelessness, and if you want to explore the deepest depths of shamelessness, the statement by CAL takes the cake, ice cream and all the condiments.

 

tremendous effort

 

Hear this: "Accepting the award on behalf of the airline, Alicia Cabrera, senior manager, marketing, shared, 'This fourth win really cements our position as the region's premier carrier. That the category is judged based on travel industry professionals voting makes it even more prestigious, as our customers and travel-agent partners clearly recognise the tremendous effort put forth by the staff to make each flight special.'" Yeah, right!

Who is the competition that CAL beat so soundly four times in a row? Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT), an airline that has no jet planes, is bankrupt, no gas subsidy and no oil money to fund its losses. There is something called Cape Air, which operates in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and is not to be confused with Virgin Airlines. There is Winair, which operates five de Havilland Twin Otter aircraft and one ATR42-500 aircraft between 11 destinations.

Then we have Air Sunshine, which flies to Puerto Rico, Vieques, etc. There are also Bahamas Air, Air Caraibes, Cubana, Fly Montserrat and Air Turks and Caicos. So when CAL boasts and beats its corporate chest, it should change its name to Hot Air.

 

extremely noisy

 

The fact that the awards are by 'travel industry professionals' and not travellers is important. Last Wednesday morning, about 6:45, I went into CAL's Tobago terminal (at Piarco Airport) and saw, really heard, about six CAL employees gathered in their own extremely noisy corner of the departure area carrying on loudly, shouting raucously and totally oblivious to the fact that there were other people, clients really, hearing and watching them waste time.

If there were supervisors around, they were part of the 'lime'. This went on until it was almost departure time, and then they slowly and reluctantly disbanded to their jobs, which they performed in a thoroughly lacklustre fashion, nothing even close to the animation and joie de vivre they displayed when they were together.

Perhaps the World Travel Awards should send its founder, Graham Cooke, on a mystery-shopper exercise to Trinidad. Then he would have to eat his words that CAL is 'truly worthy' of its awards. It is true that in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, but it would be better to have an award for excellence rather than for being the best of a bad lot.

What I would also like Cooke to experience is what happened to me when I accepted CAL's invitation to check in online. What I repeatedly got was, "SSL server probably obsolete. ERR_SSL_FALLBACK_BEYOND_MINIMUM_VERSION. Unable to connect securely to the server. This website may have worked previously, but there is a problem with the server. Connecting to such sites weakens security for all users and thus has been disabled." Even the server refuses to provide good service and does it without any shame at all.

- Tony Deyal was last seen saying that the only award he is prepared to give CAL is named after its CEO and known as DiLollo Prize.