The drift has ended
Guyana Chronicle
April 4, 2002

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IT had been my fervent hope that BWIA would have had the good sense to accept the fact that in the Gaul affair, key members of its operational staff had been less than sagacious in their handling of certain major aspect of that incident. An apology is merited.

Obviously, the BWIA press conference, which was held in Georgetown, was intended to show that Mr. Gaul merited the treatment, which he received because he was an incorrigible passenger. The long list of his errors of commission and omission on the previous leg of his flight was trotted out in an effort to justify his ejectment. The only problem with that concept was that as the BWIA top people had to admit, the deeds and misdeeds of that malefactor on the previous leg of his journey was not known to his assailants at the time they launched their onslaught upon him.

It would be hazarding a less than well-qualified guess to posit the view that Mr. Gaul was a model passenger. He was obviously loquacious and might have been something of a harrier. Certain facts seem to have been accepted as being undisputed, however, those are:

That Mr. Gaul, either immediately prior to, or immediately upon boarding the aircraft, had volubly voiced dissatisfaction over the route, which he was required to use in doing so.

In this regard, there can be no argument with the fact that the airline’s staff constitutes the sole competent authority for the purpose of determining the manner in which passengers board the aircraft.

Nonetheless, Mr. Gaul’s right to question such directions either on the basis of their rationale or equity cannot be denied or sought to be suppressed. A polite and patient, with emphasis on the latter quality, explanation, seems to have been in order.

The passenger witnesses to the incident in question aver, that by the time Mr. Gaul had taken his seat, he was calm and had been interacting in a pleasant and positive manner with his fellow passengers.

After he had been seated in his properly designated seat, enjoying the companionship of his fellow passengers, Mr. Gaul was summarily ordered by a member of the airline’s staff to disembark the aircraft.

Note should be taken of the fact that at the time that order was issued to Mr. Gaul, it had not been sanctioned by the captain of the aircraft.

Mr. Gaul’s request to be given an explanation as to why he should adopt such a drastic course of action, a quite reasonable and logical request in most circumstances, was deemed as being an act of perverse and possibly life threatening uncooperativeness, worthy of a visitation of the most condign forcefulness.

Again, note should be taken of the fact that at some stage of this ultimately most unwarranted and brutal saga, a general announcement had been made that all passengers should disembark the aircraft.

It seems from the record, that most of the passengers chose to ignore that request, but only Mr. Gaul was targeted for forceful eviction, humiliation, schedule dislocation, detention and the imposition of all the other indignities to which he was subjected.

BWIA cannot reasonably expect to be deemed exempt from any need to apologise to this passenger for the arrogance, incompetence and lack of basic customer relations management techniques displayed by its staff at Grantly Adams airport, when they themselves trumpet the fact that this very passenger had been successfully managed by the staff and flight crews at other preceding points in his journey to the Caribbean.

Should BWIA be understood as arguing that the level of competence and consideration which is considered requisite at airports and aboard airlines operating in other parts of the world, is not necessary in dealing with travellers within our region? Perhaps, particularly, if they are bound to or from Guyana?

It was the staff of BWIA who, as a result of either over zealousness or personal pique, chose to re-infuse an issue which has been as good as dead with new malevolence, by approaching Mr. Gaul after he had taken his seat and normalcy and apparently been restored.

Had the staff of BWIA not, without good cause, insisted upon Mr. Gaul’s disembarking the aircraft, and insisting further that he be deemed uncooperative because he demanded to be given a reason for that request, the subsequent involvement of the Royal Barbadian Police would not have arisen.

The unfortunate reality of life in this, our little corner of the world is that BWIA is a monopoly. They are gleefully aware of that fact and behave accordingly.

This event very likely signals BWIA’s demolition of the final barricade behind which its hostage passengers had hidden until now. The message is quite clear that any voicing of any complaint about anything, no matter how trivial or ultimately insouciant, will cause you to be deemed “uncooperative” and therefore eligible to be dragged kicking and screaming from aboard the aircraft. The drift has ended. This is it folks.
C.R.B. Edwards