A trip to Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) yesterday called for passengers to pack their patience in advance, though many never received that memo.
Hundreds of travelers — many frustrated, some at their wit’s end — waited in long lines to get through the airport as industrial action by airport workers who are members of the Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) significantly slowed operations.
Bradley Sands, who is on administrative leave from his road traffic controller duties, was among those waiting to get to security after 3 p.m.
Lucky for Sands, he had come over four hours in advance of his flight.
“I saw some stuff on the social media about how long the wait was,” he told The Nassau Guardian.
“As a matter of fact, someone said, ‘If you’re traveling, you need to get here four hours ahead of time,’ but this is really bad, man, in terms of getting through here.
“This is bad. You got to clear this line. Based on what I saw on social media, I thought I would get a jump start and I’m glad I did.”
Sands said, however, he didn’t pack any patience.
“We need to fix this,” he said. “This has to be fixed.”
Sands pointed to the opposite end of the airport where police and defense force recruits were handling passengers’ baggage.
Others did not appear as fortunate as Sands in having some time to play with ahead of their flights.
Billy Navarro, who was traveling to Miami, was all the way at the back of the line in the international departures lounge, but only had an hour to go before her scheduled flight.
“We had no idea there was a strike today,” said Navarro, who had been in The Bahamas on vacation.
“We were wondering what was going on. They didn’t tell us anything at the counter … they said you have to stand in this line. That’s it.”
Navarro said she was not willing to cover any costs associated with missing her flight as “it’s not our fault”.
Samantha Boykin, a Bahamian who lives in Philadelphia, was traveling back to the United States with her husband.
“It’s a little bit stressful,” Boykin said of the wait.
“You expect to wait, but this is an excessive wait, so I hope I make my flight because I have a connecting flight; it’s not even a direct flight.”
When she spoke with The Nassau Guardian, with hundreds of people ahead of her, Dana Richards, a Miami resident who had been in The Bahamas on vacation, said the experience at LPIA was proving to be “painful” and she was only 45 minutes into the wait.
“It’s not enjoyable,” Richards said. “It’s definitely painful and we don’t want to be around a million people, so that’s also [a concern].”
At around 3:30 p.m., Stephanie Rogers, who is from Oklahoma, said her flight was not scheduled to leave until 6 p.m.
She was happy she arrived early.
Rogers appeared patient and hoped that others were not being mean to airport staff.
“We hope people don’t get frustrated,” she said.
“We just hope people are being kind and everything gets worked out.”
Timothy Dorsett had arrived at LPIA three hours before his flight and appeared confident he would make it.
He was on the long line to get to security when he spoke with The Nassau Guardian.
Like others ahead of and behind him, Dorsett had no idea what he would meet in the security and customs sections.
“You never know what you can meet at the airport, so it’s best to come early,” he said.
Miami resident David Britez had less than two hours before his scheduled flight.
“This is my first time here, but I’m told it’s usually much easier, a much simpler walk through,” Britez said.
“We’re kind of nervous.”
But he added, “It’s not the worst place to get stuck, in The Bahamas.”
Airport officials had anticipated the industrial action yesterday and advised on Sunday that they had contingency plans in place to help deal with the situation.
Peter Rutherford, managing director of the Airport Authority, told The Nassau Guardian yesterday evening there were some late afternoon flights affected by the industrial action and this “caused an above average number of customers to miss their flights”.
Asked if he was pleased with the impact of the contingency plans, Rutherford said, “For the most part, the contingency plans held to form.
“Other challenges were experienced during the late afternoon shift change that countered some of the contingency plans.”
Approximately 4,900 passengers passed through LPIA yesterday, according to Rutherford.
Asked whether airport officials expected the BPSU action to continue today, he said, “From the mixed feedback that we are seeing, [it] indicates that there may be a continuance. However, we are hopeful that tomorrow (Tuesday) we have a full contingent on hand, but planning for the worst, nonetheless.”
Minister of Labour Keith Bell said given that the dispute with the BPSU is before the Bahamas Industrial Tribunal, the “strike” is “illegal”.
Late last night, Justice Denise Lewis-Johnson granted the Airport Authority an interlocutory injunction against the BPSU.
The judge ordered BPSU to instruct its officers and members to return to work, and not to take part in or continue to take part in any form of industrial action as the union is in violation of the Industrial Relations Act.
Early yesterday, Bell urged the workers to return to work and assured that the government is committed to resolving their dispute.
The BPSU is demanding the government pay monies the union says are owed to its members at the airport. The union is also pressing for the conclusion of an industrial agreement.
It was not immediately clear whether the BPSU and its members intend to abide by the ruling. BPSU President Kimsley Ferguson was not reachable this morning.
Rutherford advised late yesterday that international travelers arrive at the airport at least three to four hours ahead of their flights.
Domestic travelers were advised to arrive two hours in advance.
Rutherford’s statement was made ahead of the injunction being issued.
JUMP HEADLINE: Int’l travelers urged to arrive 3-4 hours before flight