The LIAT Airlines Experience
enjoy ur flight

Traveling is certainly made easier when you heed the warnings of those who have gone before you. Especially when your path winds through the tangled second world jungle that is "island time." Laid back charm aside, island time can sometimes make the simplest plan mind-bogglingly complex. With the hope that you may avoid a major pitfall, the GypsyNesters relay this tale:

We arrived at the LIAT Airlines counter in the St. Croix airport the proper two hours early for a 30 minute flight eagerly anticipating our whirlwind 25th anniversary trip to St. Martin. Perhaps, in hindsight, we should have seen the possibility of things going awry when our check-in agent was ignoring the ringing phone while waiting on us. We got into a conversation about how rude it was to answer the phone when you have real live customers in front of you and she remarked, "Why should I answer the phone anyway? They always want to know if the flight's on time and we don't ever know." Huh? We were just about to ask if the flight was running on time. Looks like we got our answer.

We remained optimistic, joked a bit with the agent and headed towards our gate. We entered a room that we would become painfully familiar with -- the dreaded "waiting for security" lounge. Knowing we had a big night ahead of us, we napped. We memorized the gift shop. We went to the bathroom just for the distraction. We played a game of guess which "chup" (the West Indian teeth-sucking noise of displeasure) was coming from which person by critiquing the pitch and timber of the individual rapid saliva inhalation.

Then we heard it. A TSA Agent snarked to the room in general, "It's LIAT—Leave Island Any Time." Uh oh.

By the time we had formulated a foolproof strategy for ending the war in Iraq (complete with detailed charts and graphs) we were finally shuttled through security and deposited into another room. No gift shop, no airline rep, and a much smaller bathroom to entertain ourselves with. Even the boisterous musicians who had been jazzed from their performance the night before at the St. Croix Christmas Festival had finally lost their groove and began drinking heavily. That, of course, made for some bang-up people-watching. A mere two hours later we were on our way.

We arrived at our destination in the teeth of The Princess Juliana International Airport's rush hour. Two international jumbo jets had just disembarked. Customs was a rip-roarin', armpit-to-elbows blast! Kudos to St. Martin customs folks for processing the mass of humanity dumped on them so quickly—no island time here, mon! We hailed a beat up Subaru taxi for the short ride to our hotel. But not too short for the cabbie to get in the phrase that we were getting to know all too well, "You took LIAT?! Leave Island Any Time."

We spent a fabulous one-night anniversary trip on the island then headed back to the airport for our return flight to St. Croix. Not before we took a brutal teasing from our taxi driver when he asked what airline--"LIAT? Late LIAT? You mean Leave Island Any Time? Best of luck!" With our tails tucked between our legs, we entered the airport.

Under a LIAT sign that read "enjoy ur flight" stood two young, beautiful check-in agents. One of them was so frustrated by the long line of chupping, angry-hornet-like travelers and inadequate technology that she was actually bashing her computer's keyboard with her fist in frustration. We got away from the counter just in the nick of time -- with a handwritten boarding pass (in ink even!) -- as a girl fight was about to break loose. They had turned on each other.

We'll leave you with a last bit of advise as we are writing from St. Croix minus Veronica's beautiful "anniversary" dress and David's only suit:

If you decide to fly Leave Island Any Time, against your better judgment, consider laying in rations for the extended wait in your carry-on bag. Oh -- and be sure to leave room for everything you might want when you get home.

David & Veronica,

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