The Last Flight of BW903

Despite the early hour , just after 7 am, a pleasant sea breeze makes the verandah cool. To the left are the sharp points of the rainforest clad mountain peaks with houses dotted around their fringes whilst ahead the sun is rising over a flat Caribbean Sea. Our first morning back in Grenada, waking up in a B&B in the hilly village of Marian above Le Phare Bleu marina and it feels good to be back. None of the searing humidity of Singapore and far from the gloomy wintry wet days of Ireland and England. 

However all is not perfect in our world. When the little twin prop laden with American students and a handful of yachties landed from Trini some twenty minutes late last night the luggage that was disembarked did not belong to any of us the passengers! By sheer good fortune of where I was standing in the baggage hall I found myself first in a rapidly lengthening queue at the airline desk. I sat with a member of staff who filled in a multipart form and handed me the lower copy, scribbling on it a contact phone number; “Call after 8:30 as that is when the first flight gets in”. So we headed off to our delightful B&B with just our hand luggage, no toothbrush and only one spare pair of ladies undies between us. Our hosts were lovely and we soon fell asleep to the calling of the frogs.

The TransAtlantic part of the trip was never more eventful. For starters it was the smallest plane either of us has flown long distance in for a long long time and enroute we crossed the path of a big Atlantic storm. Unlike the giant 747 or 380 our small-ish jet was buffeted around and we spent long periods confined by the seatbelt sign. However on the plus side we bagged the four empty seats across the aisle so had six between us and slept for much of the trip, like being in your bunk in a choppy English Channel. 

This was Caribbean Airlines last transatlantic flight, possibly ever. There were emotional scenes at the aircraft door as ground staff and cabin crew bade one another farewell. The captain as part of his preflight briefing to the passengers did more than warn us of the potential bumpy conditions and weather in Trinidad, urging us to write to our MP; presumably this was directed at the Trinidadians on board. Then we pushed back and motored through an arch of water, a final salute from the fire engines of Gatwick Airport. Enroute cabin staff told us how much they’ll miss flying to London, the short hops to other Caribbean destinations just don’t compare to the camaraderie of the long haul flight to London apparently. 

Caribbean’s inflight magazine whether by accident or design this month,  has a fascinating article on the recruiting of Trinidadians and other residents of Britain’s former Caribbean colonies during the 1950’s; men who came to London, promised jobs with London Transport and free NHS care, women who at the invitation of Enoch Powell trained as nurses, both helping a nation struggling to recover from years of war. A generation gave up the warmth of tropical islands for the damp cold climate of another island nation making their homes there, resulting in many journeys across the Atlantic on family visits. This final BW903 somehow symbolised the cutting of yet another of the historic ties between the Caribbean and Britain. The airline is looking more to the USA than London for profits nowadays. 

As we landed in Port of Spain the cabin crew seated in the rear galley started to applaud the flight. A ripple of applause flowed forward through the aircraft and back again as passengers and crew alike joined in. By the terminal building large numbers of ground crew gathered smart phones in hand to record our arrival and the fire fighters provided another arch of water for the plane to pass through as she approached the stand for a final time. The captain thanked his crew publicly and we could hear the emotion in the pursers voice as she made the standard announcements one last time, it was the end of an era. Even the passengers felt emotional and a few tissues appeared to dab teary eyes. Somehow we both felt privileged to have been part of something special.

PS: our luggage turned up this afternoon, less than 24 hours after us; we shared a taxi with the crew from another boat in the yard to fetch it. Sadly only half of their bags have so far arrived. And some of the content of ours was impounded by customs as it was “boat parts” and therefore under new legislation we are required to pay import duty via an agent. More bloomin’ paperwork to sort out later in the week!