BWIA claims evicted passenger was `uncooperative'
Guyana Chronicle
March 13, 2002

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BRITISH West Indies Airways (BWIA) yesterday confirmed that a Swedish passenger of Guyanese birth had to be removed from its flight BW431 in Barbados last Saturday night but said this was because he "refused to cooperate with airline staff."

The case has been taken up by the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) which Monday issued an eyewitness account which claimed the man was beaten by Barbados police before he and a child with him were removed from the aircraft.

The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), which said it has had several complaints in the past about the poor level of service on BWIA flights, yesterday called on the Foreign Ministry here to "investigate the whole sordid affair".

It also urged the airline management to urgently improve its flagging image with the travelling public.

In a statement, BWIA said "the passenger in question became angry and abusive at the inconvenience of having to board the aircraft through the rear door, while a wheelchair-bound passenger was being assisted to board via the front steps."

"The Captain of the flight, following safety and security procedures governing the handling of uncooperative passengers who refuse to follow instructions, asked for the passenger to disembark.

"When the passenger continued to refuse to cooperate, Barbadian authorities were called to remove him from the aircraft", BWIA said.

According to BWIA Director of Security, Mr. Peter McCarthy, the Captain followed standard international security procedures by instructing that the uncooperative passenger be removed.

Said McCarthy: "The paramount concern of the Captain and crew had to be the safety and security of all 90 passengers on BW431. BWIA's position on safety and security is clear. Any passenger who refuses to cooperate with authorised airline personnel will be considered a security risk and will be denied boarding or removed from the aircraft."

BWIA said it is conducting internal investigations into the incident and "remains committed to the safety and comfort of all passengers."

The Barbados Police Force has promised to investigate the allegation that five of its members were involved in the incident at Grantley Adams International Airport.

Deputy Police Commissioner of the Royal Barbados Police Force, Charles Blaize, yesterday said he was unaware of the incident but promised to have the matter properly investigated before further comment.

The GCCI in a press release said specific boarding signs, for instance, could prevent "a similar unfortunate event".

It said the treatment of Guyanese passengers by Barbadian Immigration authorities was of particular cause for concern.

The chamber felt that because of the passenger's Swedish citizenship, "the entire image of the Caribbean could be adversely affected as far away as Europe. Obviously this would only compound our problems in terms of attracting investors and tourists."

The Guyana Foreign Ministry yesterday urged the passenger allegedly beaten by the Barbados police and any other person/s to report the incident to the ministry.

An official said the ministry had not heard of the incident or from the victim and said unless it has substantial evidence it cannot take up the matter with Barbados, where many Guyanese have long claimed they were harassed by officials at the island's airport.

The eyewitness account released by the GHRA said the man was removed from the flight bound for Guyana by force.

It said a boy, about eight to 10 years old, who was with the passenger, was also taken off the flight.

According to the account, the man who boarded the aircraft through the back entrance, first complained loudly about having to sit close to the front of the plane and having to move such a long way with the boy through the packed plane, but later calmed down.

According to the witness, four heavy-set security men boarded the plane after the man had been seated for about five minutes. The security men reportedly said that they had been ordered by the captain to have him leave the aircraft.

Concerned passengers then reportedly explained the situation, saying that the man was simply annoyed by what he perceived was ill treatment by BWIA, but had since been quiet and should be allowed to stay on the plane with his child.

According to the account issued by the GHRA, as the security officers repeated the captain's decision, four Barbados policemen and a policewoman boarded the plane, telling the man to get off the plane. At this point, passengers verbally and loudly objected, as the man remain seated.

Further, a steward announced that all passengers should leave the plane. This request was greeted by loud protest from the passengers and no one moved, according to the account supplied to the GHRA.

It added that one of the policemen grabbed the seated man from behind with one arm and started punching him in the head with bare fists. Other policemen did the same, according to the report.

The man was then reportedly dragged into the aisle and with his hands over his head and face, he continued to suffer punches from the policemen. The screaming child was later taken off the plane, the witness told the association.

As the man and police escort reached the front of the plane the passenger was reportedly pushed into the front seat on the A-B side of the aisle, whereupon at least one of the police officers punched the man, who had fallen into the seat, the witness told the GHRA.