Posted on 20/04/2021
…so what did you do whilst covid-19 ravaged the planet?
More than 2500 passengers were affected, luckily, most of them had not left yet.
We had to let 5 members of staff go and so we had fewer staff to deal with the fallout, call volumes went through the roof so it was all hands on deck for the 5 remaining staff members.
We tried a stint of working from home, now we understand why so many companies that chose to work from home did so poorly with long waits before you got through to someone and then the person you needed to speak to was not the person who answered the phone! Some businesses thought the best way to deal with the fallout was to go to emails only and then told you that they could not deal with your email until many days later because they were inundated with so many emails!
We continued to answer the phones and answer emails throughout, from the office as this was where our systems work best, the right people were at hand to get things done, unlike so many other travel businesses.
We had over 600 passengers stuck abroad, with borders shut and flights cancelled no one could do much. The most we could do was to call those affected or send them emails where we could not get through on the phone. We told them of the cancellation and when it might be possible to bring them back, we gave them all the necessary contact information for the consular services abroad or airlines. We filled in online forms for those who were unable to do so for themselves. Where clients had UK passports we re-booked many flights via the US and brought many people back that way.
Guyana posed a particular problem as LIAT a local Caribbean carrier went out of business, that and the closure of the Guyanese border meant no one could come or go, for months. By August 2020 some of the passengers stuck in Guyana were running out of money, medication and in one case was being asked to leave the home of the family they were staying with.
Flights had begun to fly back to Barbados late July early August, Barbados is a hub for connecting flights from several destinations in the region but with LIAT out of business there was no way of getting passengers from Guyana to Barbados, the situation was desperate!
The local Consular office in Guyana decided to charter a flight to take passengers to Barbados, there were over 100 still stuck after 5 months, but they decided against it for some reason, after much deliberating we decided to take up the charter ourselves as many people stuck were our clients. We sent out an email to those stuck telling them of the charter and within a day the flight was full we had so many calls that we had to put a second flight and filled that one too, we ended up chartering 6 flights and repatriating over 70 people back to the UK.
Let’s not forget that we still had nearly 2000 people whose travel arrangements were thrown into disarray due to the pandemic, most of them still wanted to travel so we re-booked them on the schedules available at the time and when those flights were cancelled we re-booked them again, and again and again… up to six times in some cases. We still have many who are waiting to travel as soon as circumstances allow them to.
Some asked for a refund which was going well until a particular airline decided that this was the best time to switch to doing refunds manually! A process which took 3-4 weeks normally now went from 6 weeks to 12 and 14 weeks. Not everyone had the patience for this, some resorted to more aggressive means which only added more work to our already overburdened staff, thanks!
A year on and travel is still restricted, only a few people are able to travel as all travel must be for legally permitted reasons only. The re-opening and then closing for borders over the Christmas period caused a mini version of the situation we had back in May of 2020 where we still have people stuck here and abroad.
In summary, the effect of Covid-19;
2500+ people affected by the initial lockdown.
700+ People refunded to date.
600+ stuck abroad (mind you in the Caribbean)!
70+ people rescued from Guyana.
6 rescue Flights chartered
5 staff members shed.
1 travel business doing what it can to remain in business.
Caribbee will have been trading in Tooting for 40 years come September, we continue to look after many people going to the Caribbean for whatever reason takes them there, whether it’s a family matter, a reunion or a well-deserved holiday.
We are very good at what we do because we take care of the details.
You can support this local business by booking your Caribbean travel needs with us.
You can help us bounce back, we are offering 2022 Caribbean Packages with no deposit!
Book your 2022 Caribbean Package and we won’t take a deposit until September of 2021.
Our Covid-19 guarantee means that if your package holiday can’t go ahead because your flight is cancelled or borders are closed due to the pandemic, you can re-book for another date with no charges from us (the difference in cost if there is any will be payable) or a full refund.