- The beautiful island of St. Maarten is in shambles after its bout with Hurricane Irma.
Via Loop Trinidad & Tobago, it’s fallen into anarchy, marred with looting and murder. Organized gangs walk the streets with guns and machetes, leaving upstanding members of society huddled nervously in the corner of their basements.
Very few have traveled to or from St. Maarten after the hurricane battered both the airport and seaport. Food and water began to run low, and according to one resident, people have been killed! Though I’m certain there would be more reports of this if it were true.
Thankfully, the Dutch military are now in control of the airport and have reopened it for military purposes.
A Glimmer of Humanity From WestJet
Natural disasters can sometimes bring out the worst in humankind. Like a few days ago, when US airlines began gouging Floridian travelers trying to escape the hurricane. But every once in a while, there’s a story that makes me feel warm and fuzzy again!
Canadian airline WestJet sent a flight to St. Maarten to help anyone evacuate the area, free of charge, with no ticket required! Canadians and anyone else with permission to travel to Canada are welcome aboard. The evacuees will land in Toronto later tonight.
This is an incredible life raft Canada is throwing folks stuck on the island. I haven’t heard of any US airlines doing anything for our Caribbean friends (though I hope I’ve just somehow overlooked those headlines!).
I love seeing the global community come together to solve problems and look out for one another. And I really like what WestJet has done to help resolve a bit of the chaos in St. Maarten. Unlike stories we’ve heard from other islands around the West Indies, who have had cries for help ignored…
On St. Thomas, a group of 35 tired and nervous travelers who had just endured Hurricane Irma were desperate to leave the island before the arrival of Hurricane Jose. A Marriott-operated ferry with a capacity of ~600 passengers arrived on the island to transport ~300 Marriott guests to safety. Despite their offensive surplus of accommodation, they left the 35 non-Marriott guests to weather the approaching storm.
And local authorities in Turks and Caicos have tangled evacuees in red tape, preventing them from leaving.
An Air Canada plane flew 95 electricians to Turks and Caicos to help the islands recover and rebuild their electrical grid after Hurricane Irma. They planned to fill the plane with evacuees for the flight back to Canada, but the local government wouldn’t let them go due to security issues.
I’m not going to pretend I know more about the situation in these areas than the folks in charge who are on-site. But it seems like bureaucracy is inhibiting altruism when it matters most.
St. Maarten is struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma. But its biggest problem at the moment is opportunists who would rather loot than help their fellow islanders repair the country.
Lots of travelers are still trapped in St. Maarten. But WestJet has sent a plane to escort folks out of the Caribbean and up to Toronto. Free of charge!
I love this move by WestJet, and I hope to see similar acts by US airlines to help relieve the burden these hurricanes have causes so many. Keep up the good work, WestJet!