BWIA should provide apology
Guyana Chronicle
March 19, 2002

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The damage control team dispatched to defuse the case of Colin Gaul, the passenger forcibly removed from a BWIA flight last week, provided no reassurance over the regional airline’s capacity to deal with difficult situations.

Earlier in the week BWIA’s press release and letter responding to the GHRA focused as the root problem on Mr Gaul’s `non-cooperation’ with instructions from airline staff, relating to his not boarding from the front of the aircraft, which was in use by wheel-chair passengers.

Wheel-chairs have dropped out of the latest scenario. Quite logically since the allegation doesn’t bear much scrutiny. If Gaul had distinguished himself by disruptive or non-cooperative behaviour prior to boarding, why was he allowed on board at all - especially given BWIA’s heighten concern for security?

None of the passengers referred to having witnessed any altercation between Mr Gaul and BWIA staff prior to boarding. The non-cooperation, if any, must have been quite civilised.

This question becomes more pertinent in light of the additional allegation of seriously disruptive by Mr Gaul on the London flight to Barbados, made by senior BWIA officials. As reported by Stabroek News, the captain of the aircraft was forced to instruct all passengers to return to their seats and fasten safety belts in order to ensure Mr Gaul behaved himself. This reflects a very serious incident. That the BWIA crew did not even alert the BWIA crew of the Guyana leg of such an unruly passenger makes nonsense of the claim that BWIA is concerned about security. When questioned about this contradiction, Mr McCarthy, BWIA head of security, replied, “BWIA is a compassionate airline”. This flatly contradicts the other platitude voiced by him later on that “it is almost immoral to have someone like that on board”. It is clear the second crew had no idea about the alleged behaviour of Mr Gaul on the first flight.

Mr McCarthy reinforced the seriousness of the alleged incident by referring to the Tokyo Convention on aircraft security, which includes “acts which, whether or not they are offences, may or do jeopardise the safety of the aircraft or of persons or property therein”. All of this was said in justification of removing Mr Gaul for voicing his grievances. With hindsight, it renders allowing him to board the plane after his alleged behaviour on the earlier flight, seriously irresponsible.

Coercing Mr Gaul to sign a letter absolving BWIA from any liability for the incident has backfired in light of the new information from BWIA. Why treat him as the injured party who might sue BWIA if, in fact, he were so disorderly and unruly. BWIA, no doubt, thought the letter was the end of the story, not having factored into the equation the unsolicited outrage expressed by a series of respectable passengers.

BWIA would be surprised how few people find shows of brutality by men in uniform re-assuring. Quite the opposite. Whether on the ground or in the air. Moreover, in their confusion of force with security, they have not displayed the slightest concern over the fact that members of the Barbadian Police Force used excessive force on their aircraft, against a person who did nothing but passively resist their aggression. This point will no doubt be noted by potential clients of BWIA, particularly Guyanese.

One would have hoped that BWIA, as an international airline, could have risen above insular machismo, recognised an error and let life move on. An apology to all of the passengers forced to witness this distasteful boorishness from BWIA staff and brutish behaviour of the Barbadian police is still in order.

The GHRA believes BWIA should provide one.