For those unfamiliar with LIAT Airlines, the Caribbean carrier has a less-than-stellar reputation. Nicknames for its incompetence are legion – Leave Island Anytime, Luggage In Another Town, Lost In between Antigua and Trinidad.
Yet the flight prices are cheap and the destinations - LIAT has hubs in Antigua and Barbados, and flies to almost all of the Caribbean’s smaller islands - are hard to beat. If you decide to take LIAT, especially from one of the bigger islands, be prepared. In November, my husband’s bag didn’t make it to St. Vincent from Barbados until later in the evening and I spent last night without my bag here on Grenada.
The airline is also dodgy with arrival and departure times. On my trip between St. Vincent and Grenada last November, one flight left one hour late – and the next left 20 minutes early! It seems that flight times with LIAT are more of a suggestion than an absolute.
If you are traveling on LIAT, here are a few tips to make your experience less frustrating.
1. Hang on to your bag at all costs. This may be hard to do, as LIAT’s small planes have a 15 pound weight limit. That meant my bag that easily fit in the overhead on US AIR from the States had to be checked in Barbados. I got around this last time by getting it to the gate, where it was handchecked. It’s sneaky and the airline folks don’t like it, but it works.
2. Check in early and stick around the gate area. Because of LIAT’s size limitations, bags get on the plane in a first-come, first-serve manner. But the real reason to get there early – and stay at the gate – is the airline’s loose definition of arrivals and departures. I would have hated to have been the passenger in St. Vincent who watched that plane pull out early. And I’ve seen more than one harried passenger running across a small island terminal as they realized their flight had already been called.
3. Travel on earlier or later flights that aren’t as full. LIAT would rather take paying passengers than bags, so if you’re on a full flight like I was yesterday (students from St. Georges medical school are returning to Grenada), there’s almost no way that your bag will get there. It may mean giving up your Happy Hour rum punch to arrive a little later, but it’s worth it to have your bag.
4. Pack enough clothes and toiletries for at least a day in your smaller carryon bag. I always plan to do this and I always leave something out: Last night, it was my contact lens case. Make a list if you have to.
5. Give yourself some time before going to your next destination. When my husband’s bag arrived late in St. Vincent, we took it in stride as we weren’t moving on to Bequia for another day or so. And I felt a little better last night knowing that I didn’t have to be on my Island Windjammer cruise until 5 p.m. today.
6. If your bag is lost, get as much detailed information from the airline representatives as possible – as nicely as possible. The airline makes you return to the airport to get your bags, and cab fares can add up. When you are filling out your lost luggage form, ask the attendant for the specific times that the next flights are coming in, a direct phone number that you can call, a manager who you can ask for and what time the airport clears out for the night. Usually people are more than willing to give you this information, if you phrase it in a way that makes it clear that you don’t want to waste their time.
(This next week will be a light posting week for me, as I’ll be on an Island Windjammers cruise around the Grenadines. Happy travels, and I’ll have plenty of photos and information when I return!)
Do you have a LIAT horror story of your own? How did you cope? Leave it below!