On 12 January 2011, myself, my wife and approx. 160 other Canadians were scheduled to leave Montego Bay on Westjet flight 2703 at 1530, we called westjet at @ 1100 and were informed that the flight was on time, we arrived at MBJ and were told our flight was delayed an hour and we would board at 1545, 1545 came and went and no one boarded the plane, at @ 1600, we told that the incoming flight had a medical emergency that required the use of oxygen and the return flight would be delayed until the oxygen was replenished. At this point I approached the Westjet representative and identified myself as a critical care /SAR medic and informed them that just outside of MBJ on the main road was a private medical clinic that would refill the portable 02 system, a few minutes later another passenger identified herself as a nurse and passed along the same information. We were told by the Westjet staff member Michelle James that this was being taken care of and we would board shortly.
At 1700 the pilot came out mumbled a few words into the desk PA system and stated he would update us in 20 minutes, the pilot never returned. At 1730, I once again approached the westjet staff and asked for an update, I was then told we would receive more information by 1900 hrs. At this point it had become apparent that no one within westjet had a clue how to handle an emergency and I once again told Michelle James who I was and seeing as we had already been at the airport for 7 hours made the following requests,
1. That west jet provide access to the bags that were sitting on the runway so that the parents with small children could get supplies (diapers, formula etc), that people who needed medication be allowed to do the same, I also requested that water be provided for the older passengers and the younger ones. I was then told they would be handing out meal vouchers shortly and there was a water fountain (no cups) down the hall.
2. There was 2 ill children, one asthmatic passenger and an older passenger with diabetes and hyper-tension I made this perfectly clear to the west jet staff and requested at least a first aid kit and ice packs and was told there was no ice packs in the airport and they would see if they could find a first aid kit, neither one of these items was ever produced by west jet staff.
A few minutes later they started to hand out $ 10.00 worth of food vouchers, however none were given to children under 2 years of age, and some food service providers only valued them at 8.00 USD, to put this in perspective a bowl of soup at Margaretville was 9.95 and a burger at another provider was $ 10.00. at this point myself, my wife and other passengers gave our food vouchers to people with families and small children.
At @ 1930 I was approached by another passenger who had looked on the westjet web site which showed our flight delayed until 0100 on the 13th, I approached the counter and was informed they could make no comment and they would provide an update “later”, I asked why it was on a web site yet the people who were being effected were not being told anything.
@ 1950 we were told that a plane would be leaving Toronto at 2000 with the oxygen and arrive MBJ at midnight, with a planned departure from MBJ at 0110, at this point some of the passengers became quite verbally upset and the west supervisor left the desk not to be seen again until the wee hours of the morning, unlike the original westjet pilot who never returned at all. During this I was approached by a mother to look at her child as he was running a high fever and one of the other passengers was becoming short of breath due to the hyper tension, I again asked for access to meds and again was ignored.
@ 2045, I asked my wife to attend the front desk to get water or cups for the kids and she was told that food vouchers would be handed out shortly, again none were given to children under two and by the time they had been handed out most food providers were closed or in the process of closing.
@ 2100 I was approached by a young lady who informed me her ride from the airport would not be able to pick her up and that she had no money, my wife took her and a few other passengers who we in the same circumstance to the west jet desk to see what could be done, frankly we were in the same position as my son would be at work when we were scheduled to land and our option would be a 150 cab ride home. My wife spoke to staff who assured us that westjet staff would meet our flight and make arrangements, when she (my wife) asked them to confirm this in writing in case of issues on the receiving end she was told no they would not do that, after telling her that they would not leave the counter until some confirmation was given they then were magically able to make notes in the computer as to which passengers would require transportation assistance.
At @ 2100-2130, although I have no proof, the airport shut down and the a/c was either reduced or turned off completely.
@ 2200 a passenger received a phone call from her father saying westjet’s website now indicated a 0630 arrival in Toronto, the desk staff were asked about this and they confirmed that the plane that they told us had left at 2000 did not actually leave until 2100 and our departure time was now to be @ 0220, needless to say this caused some verbal comments to be made by quite a few passengers and the desk called for extra security and the airport manager, they arrived shortly thereafter and the manager only made matters worse by singling out one of the ill older passengers and tried to tell her she could not get on the plane as she was ill, both myself and the nurse interceded and I explained to him the situation so far and that the passengers were concerned as now they were children with no diapers, no meds, no water, no blankets, no pillows and his heavy handed approach would do nothing more than cause further upset. At @ 2245 two Jamaican police officers ( a sgt. And a corporal) arrived at the gate, I approached them along with the manager and explained the situation, both police officers agreed that it was unacceptable and one of them ordered the manager to find me at least the ice packs, he returned @ 15 minutes later with two latex gloves filled with ice, over 5 hours since I first requested it.
@ 0130, the second west jet crew arrived, I immediately approached the pilot, identified myself and told them I needed water for the passengers, I received 8 bottles of water and some plastic bottles and my wife and the nurse then spent the next 30 minutes giving out water to the younger and older passengers, not one west jet crew member offered any help or assistance.
We finally left MBJ @ 0245 on a plane that had no food except for snacks, we were told this was because it was a “rescue” flight, if this is westjet’s idea of a rescue then I would really hate to see them face a real emergency.
Things were not much better upon arriving in Toronto, disorganization, incorrect information and all 2 of the westjet staff assigned to meet our plane were simply unable to deal with the volume of complaints, we were however told by a westjet employee (Ray) that they (west jet) knew the flight would be delayed by mechanical problems since @ 1700 on the 12th. Finally at 1020, we arrived home, 22 hours since we checked in at MBJ
When my wife called west jet today to follow up she was told it was a weather delay, yet air Canada, canjet, sunwing all had multiple flights leave MBJ, so do they think we are blind or stupid
RECAP: 160 or so passengers, including ill children and seniors left for over 15 hours in an hot humid airport with little food, no water, no meds, no blankets, no pillows, no information, then a 4 hour flight with no food, intimidation by staff, quite frankly prisoners receive better treatment and last i checked inmates did not pay over 1800.00 to receive such treatment.
Questions: Why did the original pilot not return to give the briefing he promised, and why did he leave without ensuring the safety, security and comfort of the passengers he is responsible for, quite frankly his utter lack of professionalism and disregard for basic human compassion should cost him his job,
Why, knowing how long the delay would be did west jet not put people in hotels or at least ensure adequate food and supplies were provided,
Why did west jet after being given/ offered assistance by two medical professionals, one of whom designs crisis management programs for international companies (myself) totally disregard this advice and continue down a path which caused undue hardship and concern for all the passengers
Why in absence of the pilot did the next senior west representative (Michelle James) leave the desk area without ensuring supplies were on hand, information was provided and people were cared for.