To the Editor:
The decision by the Steamship Authority to close its reservation office at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport will result in a significant loss of service to the year-round residents, to whom they can be so very helpful when there is a need for a priority reservation to leave the Island for medical or important family needs. The decision to close the office was made because the administration believes that the average of 40 daily transactions that were actually handled by the office was insufficient to justify what they regard as an extra expenditure.
Actually, it is my understanding and observation when I have been standing in line waiting at the airport counter, that while the record shows only 40 actual purchases made daily, there are at least double that number of people whom they serve each day, many leaving with all their questions answered.
To those of us who have had to use the service, there can be no replacement offered by the regular system that is in place. We are not looking for a trip to the airport, but when one needs to get off for an emergency, the sudden need to find a way to fax evidence of the need to the reservation office, then call back and get the same operator to see if it has been received, etc., and then refax if something else is needed, is not what one wants to involve oneself with in an emergency, when a quick trip to the airport can resolve everything.
The administration certainly means well, but the savings is fictitious. The current employees will be transferred, with no jobs lost, to the second floor of the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal where they will be integrated into the system-wide reservations service, taking calls assigned at random from on- and off-Island. The 40 transactions will still have to be handled by someone, somewhere, probably taking much longer, and certainly stressing the Islander who is in need of help for an emergency.
A good compromise would be to move the airport staff employees to the Vineyard Haven terminal in a location where Islanders could still access them, while integrating them, whenever their time was not locally occupied, into the system-wide reservation service. The airport office has been of great comfort to many; even just knowing it is there is comfort in itself.