Government strongly protests CAL treatment of stranded Guyanese
MINISTER of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Mr. Manniram Prashad said, yesterday, that the callous treatment of Guyanese passengers by Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) is unacceptable and the Government of Guyana strongly protests this kind of conduct.
He deprecated the action during a media briefing in his South Road, Georgetown office, where he described the ongoing situation as a “fiasco”.
About 100 Guyanese passengers were stranded at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on Tuesday evening, after CAL “bumped” them off a scheduled flight, promising that they would be placed on a direct charter to Guyana.
Prashad said: “The first flight was scheduled to leave on Tuesday at 04:30 hrs which saw passengers checking in as early as 22:00 hrs on Monday night, only to be told, shortly before the departure that the flight will be arriving later in the day, around 06:30 hrs. Passengers waited patiently but that flight did not materialise and, later in the day, they were told that the flight will depart at 18:30 hrs and, this time, there was no flight, as well.”
According to the minister, on Tuesday afternoon, just around the time of departure, the passengers were told that the flight would not be on schedule anymore and will now depart Guyana at 20:00 hrs on Wednesday night.
As to the reasons given by CAL for the continued cancellations and delays, he noted that Hurricane Irene was used as an excuse although it no longer posed a threat, because JFK was reopened since Monday night.
In addition, the passengers were then told, after enquiries, that the aircraft that was chartered to bring the Guyanese home had experienced mechanical problems.
“We can understand an act of nature but this is not Hurricane Irene and no excuse will be accepted for this kind of treatment. It is contempt for all Guyanese and we strongly protest this kind of treatment meted out to Guyanese,” Prashad reiterated.
The minister explained that, prior to the current state of affairs, he was engaged in discussions with Mr. Carl Stewart, CAL Manager in Guyana, who said the airline had made all arrangements to bring Guyanese back home and undertook to keep him informed.
After that engagement, several efforts were made to contact the CAL local officials as well as Mr. George Nicholas, its Chairman, all of which have proven futile, Prashad reported.
He disclosed that this is not the first time that Guyanese passengers have experienced problems with the airline.
“The Caribbean Airlines issue is an ongoing one, with several problems, in the past, regarding complaints of Guyanese passengers being treated unfairly and discussions were held about them being treated with disregard. They (CAL) had said that they would change this but nothing has happened,” Prashad noted.
He said, too, that he was informed that some of the planes which went to JFK deliberately left Guyanese and selectively took other nationals from the airport.
“Now I have to confirm this (but) if this is true, this is blatant discrimination against Guyanese and it is totally unacceptable. These are some of the statements coming from stranded passengers,” Prashad said.
He said several of the irate passengers have indicated their intention to take legal action against CAL.
Prashad said at least 600 passengers are affected in Guyana, an indication that the situation is “out of control” because all of the previous discussions have resulted in undelivered promises.
“I think that this situation has really gone out of control and all these discussions we are having and promises are to no avail. Maybe the time has come now when we, seriously, have to get back into the airline business,” the minister said.
He acknowledged that more airlifts are needed into Guyana and efforts are being made as discussions are ongoing with several airlines such as Jet Blue, Suriname Airways and KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines).
The minister gave his assurances that every effort will be made to resolve the situation and indicated that the Minister of Transport and Hydraulics, Mr. Robeson Benn, may be called upon to intervene.
*** PULL QUOTE:
“I think that this situation has really gone out of control and all these discussions we are having and promises are to no avail. Maybe the time has come now when we, seriously, have to get back into the airline business.” – Minister Manniram Prashad
** PULL QUOTE:
“We can understand an act of nature but this is not Hurricane Irene and no excuse will be accepted for this kind of treatment. It is contempt for all Guyanese and we strongly protest this kind of treatment meted out to Guyanese.” – Minister Prashad