Plane Luck, Continued
Note: Plane Luck, Continued, is the second part of an interesting story!) It was a beautiful sight to see the passengers on the crashed plane slowly walk up the runway in our direction before disappearing into a room on the other side of the terminal. And within a few minutes more, another unexpected sight appeared….in less than fifteen minutes following the plane’s hard landing and crash off the runway, Chris Ghita, the general manager of the Palm Island Hotel that we stayed at arrived on the scene.
The Calvary Arrives
With cell phone in one hand and a two-way radio in the other, Chris, a muscular small-framed man with a commanding presence, seemed to arrive out of nowhere and took control of what he felt was his responsibility—us!
Upon receiving a call that a “plane had crashed,” Chris, along with a physician who lives on Palm Island, sped by boat across the one mile span between the two islands and arrived in Clifton Harbor, an eighth of a mile from the airport. The doc went to check on the passengers getting off of the plane and Chris continued to the terminal.
Within minutes we were ferried back to the dock where one boat was waiting and another would soon arrive to transport us to Canouan, the next nearest island with an airstrip. From there, we hoped to catch our plane and make it in time to Barbados to board our scheduled American Airlines flight for Miami. While waiting for the second boat we were treated to lunch at a dockside restaurant, at the expense of Palm Island Hotel, even though our stay there had officially ended.
“Plan B” Stands for Boats!
As we boarded the boats and got under way, Chris had arranged for our luggage to get loaded and was busy checking on our connections clear through to Barbados. The fact that all this was being done without us having to make one phone call ourselves was truly remarkable and a story in itself…a reminder of the quality of care and service we had enjoyed for the previous ten days!
By early afternoon the ever-present Trade Winds were sweeping across the open waters of the southern Caribbean, which translated into six to eight foot swells during our hour-long boat ride to Canouan. In spite of the considerable spray and pounding about we remained grateful to be making progress on our journey home.
From High Seas to Stick Shifts
We arrived at the dock at Canouan and were reunited with our luggage, and within minutes a six passenger Toyota taxi was backing down onto the dock. We somehow managed to cram all eight people and our gear into what looked like a breadbox on wheels and headed for the airport. My contribution to making us all fit was to straddle the center console between the two front seats, which included the gear shift. And yes, it was a manual transmission! Every time the driver had to shift up or down (which was almost constantly!) I had to hoist by butt upward and out of the way so the poor guy could keep his overloaded taxi moving.
It was here, on the way to our second airport, that we learned more about what had happened back at Union Island Airport. The plane that crashed while landing had come from Venezuela and neither the pilot or copilot had ever flown into Union Island before. They actually thought Union Island was Canouan Island, which explained why they ran out of runway during their approach, as Canouan has a much longer airstrip. They also undertook landing at Union coming in with the wind, not against it, which those in the know say is rarely ever done.
As we pulled up to the entrance of Canouan’s airport terminal we shared our final goodbyes to Chris and his crew from Palm Island. Once we went through security (again!) we walked out to the other side to the waiting sixteen passenger plane that was supposed to pick us up at Union Island. As we prepared for takeoff, both pilots in our plane, having flown over the airstrip at Union Island to see first hand that they could not land with the damaged aircraft protruding onto the runway, commented on how lucky everyone was to have made it out of that plane unscathed.
We’re Not In Kansas Anymore
Once in the air our thoughts quickly turned to the next leg of our trek home as it appeared we would land at Barbados a half-hour before our jet to Miami was scheduled to leave. Upon arrival, however, we quickly learned that customer care has its limits, especially with outfits like American Airlines. Even though Chris had called the airline to say that our party of eight passengers would arrive in time, good old American Air sold our tickets to folks on standby and rebooked us for the next day.
However, once again Chris had been working the angles and had spoken with Blair, the on-site travel consultant who greets incoming guests and represents the Palm Island Hotel. She managed to find decent hotel rooms for all of us in one place, arranged for a taxi, and for the same driver to bring us back to the airport in the morning.
Given the unforeseen events of a very long day and the good efforts of so many, it was hard to complain. Passengers on the crashed plane were okay; many hard-working folks had done excellent work to move us along and we would, albeit a day later, arrive back home ourselves, safe and sound. And having witnessed and benefited first hand a level of care and professionalism by Chris Ghita and his staff at Palm Island, we are already looking forward to returning again to beautiful Palm Island in the Grenadines.