Sat | Apr 21, 2018

Airport management bashed after chaos during simulated blast

Published:Saturday | July 1, 2017 | 12:48 PM

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

The simulated bag blast at the Norman Manley International Airport last night has been described as a fiasco, by passengers, workers and airlines operating at the facility.

“It went viral all over the world and various airline headquarters went into alert mode,” said a highly placed source at the airport.

The simulated blast went off at approximately 7 p.m. in the departure area, while Cayman Airways and JetBlue were checking in their passengers.

Station Manager of Cayman Airways, Carol Nugent said her passengers, staff and others in the departure area were extremely frightened because they were not aware of what was happening.

In fact, the president of the Board of Airline Representatives of Jamaica (BARJ), Yvonne Pearson, said she was alerted of the situation after one of her staff watched the news on television.

“We were not aware of any plans; managers were calling me for information as there were so many rumours. They needed credible information to pass to their headquarters,” Pearson told The Gleaner.

She said neither herself nor the Airline Operating Committee chairperson, Leslie Brown, could get information for their members.

"Employees for some airlines were in the airport. Rumours ranged from 'it's a test' to 'nobody really knows'.”

Pearson said when she contacted Nari William-Singh, the director general of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who confirmed it was a simulated exercise.

READ: Norman Manley Airport incident was a simulation exercise - authorities

“You do that crap in 1950 not 2017 where cell phones and a panic world on high alert exist. It is not the period when you had to walk to The Gleaner at North Coast to relay your story,” said a passenger, who missed his flight and was in the airport at the time.

Last night, Alfred McDonald, senior director, Commercial Development and Planning at NMIA was quoted in a Jamaica Information Service release stating that, as part of an exercise to test the emergency response mechanism of the airport, the JCAA organised an incident that would take place in the airport terminal.  

"It was executed without the knowledge of a number of the emergency responders so that the response system could be assessed,” said McDonald, who noted that all aspects of the incident were being evaluated.

According to McDonald, no flight was affected by the exercise and all operations of the NMIA had returned to normal.

Efforts to get a comment from the communications arm of the JCAA were not successful.