By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMAS Air Traffic Controllers Union President Lashan Gray yesterday denied allegations that hundreds of travellers were stranded or had their flights delayed at the Lynden Pindling International Airport over the weekend because the union had engaged in industrial action.
Conversely, she said flight delays were caused by “numerous factors” including “really significant traffic volumes and misinformation.”
Mrs Gray was responding to claims that more than 300 passengers were stranded at LPIA because the air traffic controllers had gone on strike. Additionally, Bahamian residents complained on social media of being stranded at the LPIA for “five hours” as a result of the alleged industrial action.
Those allegations came less than a week after Bahamasair pilots staged a two-day sick out in response to the failed negotiations with government officials over their new contract and payment terms for increments. Their actions left thousands of Christmas holiday travellers – local and foreign – stranded last week.
Speaking with The Tribune yesterday, Mrs Gray said the BATCU was “currently not engaged in any industrial action” despite their “long outstanding industrial disputes” with the Civil Aviation Department (CAD).
“As mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organization, our professionals continue to provide safe, orderly and expeditious service,” she said in an official statement. “We appreciate and take seriously our responsibility with regards to domestic and international commerce resulting from our aviation product and the subsequent effects a withdrawal of service could have on our national economy.”
Over the weekend, a foreign traveller in an email to The Tribune alleged that more than 300 passengers were stranded at LPIA because of an “air traffic controller work slow down/strike”.
The traveller said the Department of Civil Aviation needed to take responsibility to resolve the matter “ASAP”. He said last weekend’s trip would be his last to the Bahamas.
Yesterday, one Facebook user posted in a Facebook group that airline counter clerks informed her that the air traffic controllers had issued directives not to send out any flights.
“First the pilots did a sick protest, caused a lot of money and reputation for this country, today the air traffic controllers did an (expletive) too and caused a five hour delay on my flight and destroyed further tourist vacations,” the user said in her post. “Good one people, Cuba going to be a breath of fresh air to all the people we lost this season here that would have returned.”
When questioned on the matter yesterday, Mrs Gray said the delays were the result of “increased complexity and volume of traffic” of flights at the airport. She said the union would continue to “ensure the safety of the flying public”.
“Numerous factors have led to an incredibly busy period, independent of the controllers themselves,” Mrs Gray said. “I just hope the public appreciates what we do and endure in order to keep this country going. Unfortunately, there is much ungratefulness, regardless of the sacrifices made by those operating within a handicapped system.
“For the record, there is no striking going on, just really significant traffic volumes and misinformation.”
Last week’s actions of the Bahamasair pilots have sparked outrage from those who travelled with the airline, with both Bahamian and foreign travellers reportedly vowing never to fly on Bahamasair again.
Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis has called the action of the pilots “unconscionable” and said the government would review their actions “within the context of the company’s policies and procedures.”