By Dr Neals Chitan
The departure lounge at the Robert L Bradshaw International Airport in St Kitts was quickly becoming a hive of disgruntled travellers on Monday, December 17, 2018, as a crippled Leeward Island Air Transport (LIAT) flight 313 sat totally incapacitated on the tarmac.
As fellow travellers in this multi-national Caribbean mix, my wife and I listened as the airport intercom system chimed in and out announcing the increasingly bad news from minor delays to full cancellation. The air was getting thicker with under-the-breath complaints as the hours dragged on from a 12.45 pm departure to 6.00 pm, when to our relief, another LIAT flight came to the rescue and the boarding process began.
However, before my boarding pass could be scanned at the gate, I noticed the passengers ahead of me making their way back to the departure lounge because the rescue plane was also inflicted with a mechanical problem.
By the way, if 20 percent of LIAT’s ten aircraft developed mechanical issues simultaneously, it causes one to seriously wonder if LIAT is living up to its regular scheduled maintenance routine of its ATR fleet as is demanded by aviation regulations.
However, with a further disappointed group of weary travellers now turned back to the terminal building due to the inflicted relief aircraft, anxiety turned into anger. People’s patience began wearing thin and started venting their frustrations from hunger and tiredness to losing their connecting flights at the next stop.
Leading the charge among them was Sebastein, a gentleman who I saw earlier playing rather delightfully on the floor with his toddler son. I was drawn to him as he chased the little fellow around, giggling and swinging him around as if helping the child to cope with the frustration of the ordeal. However, now at his wits’ end, and six full hours later, he became the champion of justice as he gave the LIAT representatives “a piece of his mind” on behalf of himself and what seemed to be his family.
Finally, at about 8.45 pm, with repairs finished on the crippled aircraft, Flight 313 was announced ready to depart to Antigua, and the boarding process began again. In normal circumstances, the news of free hotel accommodation and food is usually greeted with celebration and excitement, but not this time! Almost every one of us had missed our connecting flight, which caused a chain of negative reactions when we landed at VC Bird International in Antigua, and free accommodation at Rex Resort although welcomed, could not suffice for the inconvenience and frustration of the whole experience.
After being processed through immigration, the group proceeded to the baggage area to pick up our bags, and there I noticed Sebastein and the family again as he struggled to pull off their luggage from the rotating carousel. His “wife” had the baby on her shoulder and together with their three suitcases and carryon bags they struggled to get through the doors to the taxi area.
With the frustration of the whole travel experience bearing down on him, he simply left one of the suitcases standing in the corner, so he can better manage the other two, to quickly go back to get the suitcase, which was standing just about twelve feet away in full view of himself and everyone else.
Immediately, a female airport security guard pounced on him, “Is that your bag? Go get it right now, because you are not supposed to leave bags unattended.” I looked at his face as he winced in anger, “I am right here and did not leave my bag alone.” But she rudely persisted, “Just go get your bag, the law is, bags should not be left alone.”
Frustration and anger were pouring out of this one-time jovial gentleman and he was about to lose it, when she again tyrannically demanded that he immediately get the bag, which by the way was just left for a few seconds, a few feet away.
I looked at the faces of the other weary travellers present at the scene as they too showed signs of disgust at the impatience and inhumanity of this callous law enforcer who was more careful about the strict observance of the letter of the law than the helpful spirit of the law. As a matter of fact, someone close by mentioned in response to her reaction, “Why couldn’t she offer to help the struggling guy with his suitcases instead of standing there talking about what the law says?”
This intolerant, unsympathetic and sometime inhumane attitudes and responses of law enforcers to circumstantial law breaking can create such confrontational episodes that it can set the stage for defiance and rebellion that can quickly and uncontrollably spiral down into blatant law breaking by frustrated individuals.
And indeed, as an international crime reduction consultant, haven’t I seen enough of this attitude among law enforcers of all stripes who instead of using their hearts and humanity to help serve and protect, they stand by with the long arm of the law in striking position, eagerly awaiting the slightest opportunity to pounce on the next unsuspecting transgressor, despite the circumstances.
I am so happy that my Dominican brother bit his tongue and quickly held on to his temper while complying with the letter of the law, thereby avoiding what could have been an extremely volatile situation between himself and law enforcement, one which you very rarely win as a citizen.
As we celebrate our Christian heritage of God becoming human to bring peace and goodwill to humanity, I pray that we too will in turn become more humane and loving to our brothers despite our differences in class, rank or status, thus joining the Christ child in bringing peace to the earth.