Caribbean Airlines (CAL) customers say they have gone months since the Covid-19 border closure without receiving refunds for cancelled flights promised by the airline in April 2020.
As the one-year anniversary of the flight cancellation fast approaches, one customer who withheld her name told the Express she has since become desperate for the $7,000 owed to her by the airline. With tightening economic circumstances due to the pandemic, she questioned why customers were being refunded at such a slow pace.
“I know they may be swamped, but the thing is I am a working-class person. This is $7,000 that once Covid-19 hit the economy and things became so tough, I could have really used it. It is so stressful because I didn’t get anything from putting out that money and I have to almost beg for it to be given back to me,” she said.
Despite many attempts to communicate with CAL officials, she said, she was promised that the refund would be deposited to her account in early January 2021. As this date came and went, she said, she again contacted the airline, which promised to deposit the refund in February. As this date again passed, she said she is hoping for a positive response.
“I bought tickets in January last year to travel in April. In March everything shut down and we were told we had to cancel the flight, so I did. You weren’t able to speak with anyone on the phone.
Everything opened in July and we spoke with representatives every two weeks and were promised that refunds would be distributed. We were told that at first it would take two months, and six months passed and now almost one year has passed and still no refund. Every time I made the request, they would say it was transferred to the refund department.
“Eventually I was contacted by someone who claimed they were going to handle it personally. I was promised that by a certain time I would receive the refund, but that time came and went in January and no refund. So, I sent another e-mail and I was promised that by a date in February it would be deposited into my bank account. Again, that date came and went and we are still waiting,” she said.
On social media, several customers have since attempted to get the attention of CAL by sharing their stories.
“I spoke to someone in September who said she spoke to someone from the refunds department to escalate the issue, that it would take up to three months again to process the refund from the day it was sent to the refunds department. August, September, October and nothing. It’s been seven months and you’re holding my money! This is ridiculous,” wrote one person.
“I have been e-mailing, messaging and calling for the past seven months with regards to my refund. Please, please, please assist!” wrote another.
The Express contacted Caribbean Airlines for a response and CAL stated that the delay was due to the volume of cancellations caused by the pandemic.
“With respect to your enquiry, Caribbean Airlines is committed to refunding eligible tickets in a timely manner. However, refunds may take longer than our usual refund timelines given the current volumes due to the pandemic. We thank our valued customers for their continued understanding and support as our refunds team continues to actively work to facilitate their requests,” it said.
My falling wall
There is a retaining wall collapsing near LP 51 at Upper Moraldo Street in Maraval, and residents say at least eight homes are in danger.
Resident William Austen told the Express in January that he had lobbied for the past two decades for the construction of a retaining wall in the area. In the 1990s, he said, heavy rainfall in the area saw a number of once-sturdy structures being threatened by the resulting landslide.
In response, State agencies began the construction of a bridge and two walls.
While residents hoped the bridge signalled the erection of a retaining wall, he said, construction soon stopped, leaving the majority of land exposed.
Despite multiple requests, he said, no action has since been taken.
“The MP promised they were going to construct a 50-foot by 20-foot wall against the ravine. The mountain keeps coming down.
Twenty years now I am waiting for a wall here. Twenty years ago the caving was six feet away from the fence. Now it is two feet. They promised to build a retaining wall 20 years now and the landslide is getting closer to the house.
“The bridge is there and they were supposed to extend these walls but, as you can see, construction stopped on both sides. So, since then, I have been begging for help, but nobody is listening. I have seven girls and one boy and I want to build eight apartments for my children but the ground is collapsing here,” he said.
Austen, a technician and delivery driver, who, in 2018 attempted to form the TPRTT (True Patriots of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago) political party, says he fears the issue of a retaining wall has been politicised.
Though the party, he said, was registered in an effort to bridge the gap between the working man and the politicians, he said his pleas have been repeatedly dismissed by Member of Parliament for the area, Colm Imbert.
“I thought there was value to what I have to say as the average citizen but, since then, I have been shamed and ignored. I attended a town hall (meeting) with these politicians and they made the wall an issue because of politics. Now at least eight homes here, including mine, are at risk of collapse and no one is doing anything,” he said.
In February, Austen attempted a one-man protest outside of the MP’s constituency office to appeal for the construction of the wall, but he has not been contacted by any relevant agencies.
“I am desperate, I don’t know what to do,” he said.
Letters requesting aid from multiple agencies, on behalf of residents in the construction of the wall, were shared with the Express.
Contacted for a comment, councillor for the area, Andy Felician, said he was aware of the issue and the problem it posed for residents.
While he sympathised with their stress, he said, the (regional) corporation was awaiting aid from the Ministry of Works and Transport, as construction of a wall was not within the corporation’s budget.
“We have to wait until any of those organisations respond because it is not within our budget and resources at this time. Typically, in these situations we wait for their assistance because it is a large undertaking. To date we have not heard back on the matter, so we can’t do anything,” he said.
The Express contacted Diego Martin North East MP Imbert for a response. These were the questions sent to Imbert via WhatsApp.
“We were contacted by residents of LP 51, Upper Moraldo Street in Maraval who say that a land slippage in the area poses a significant threat to their properties. They said that they were promised a retaining wall years before but to date nothing has been done.
They also said that they have attempted to raise the issue with your office on multiple occasions but have been ignored. Are you aware of the situation? Do you have any response to their claims? Can residents expect the construction of this wall in the near future?”
Imbert responded by blocking this reporter.