BWIA says it did no wrong in evicting passenger By Neil Marks
Guyana Chronicle
March 16, 2002

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"...It is almost immoral to have somebody like that on your cannot say he would calm down, what would prevent him from flaring up again?" - Peter McCarthy, Director of Security

REGIONAL airline, BWIA, yesterday refused to acknowledge that Guyanese-born Colin Gaul was assaulted on its aircraft last Saturday evening and said it did no wrong, and did not have to apologise for evicting the Swedish citizen from the plane.

BWIA top executives, Don McLean, responsible for Customer Services and Operations, Director of Security, Peter McCarthy, and Country Manager, Dawn Murray, sought to give credit to their case by describing Gaul as an abusive passenger who exhibited disorderly conduct on the way from London to Barbados.

At a press conference hosted at BWIA's Georgetown office, they said Gaul has a return ticket and if he will fly with BWIA depends on a meeting they are seeking with him. If the meeting does not materialise, Gaul's fate of boarding at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri, will depend on his disposition there.

Recounting BWIA's side of the story, Murray said that Gaul became annoyed when he was asked to board the plane from the back, and when he and his son did, he "complained in a loud, hostile tone".

She said Gaul was initially told to board from the front, but as a wheelchair passenger walked very slowly and had difficulty climbing the stairs, Gaul was then asked to board from the back.

Murray related that as Gaul continued "in a loud tone", a BWIA flight attendant and customer service agent spoke to him. She said that they could not calm him down, and as a result, the Captain was advised of the situation and he ordered that the passenger be removed from the aircraft.

After he refused, police and airport security personnel boarded the aircraft and struggled in their attempts to remove the passenger.

"(He) refused to vacate his seat and had to be forcefully removed from the aircraft, struggling with the officers in the aisle. The officers had great difficulty in removing him from the aircraft because of the narrow aisle and the seats that he had to hold on to prevent his removal", Murray said.

Murray did not refer to the blows that Gaul said he received from Barbados police.

McCarthy said that BWIA has not had the benefit of the police investigations and that BWIA does not know of the way in which Gaul was handled.

"In view of the heightened aviation measures in place and following September 11, 2001, the pilot in command is obligated to ensure the welfare of all passengers and crew on board, and if in any doubt about the behaviour of a passenger that jeopardises the safety of the aircraft and passengers, he is obligated to have the passenger removed," Murray said.

She said that investigations revealed that Gaul demonstrated "disorderly conduct" whilst on board BWIA flight BW901 on March 09 from London to Barbados.

Murray said Gaul kneeled on the seat and talked to passengers behind in a loud tone during the boarding process in London, and that he stood in the aisle while passengers were boarding, blocking the other travellers.

She said that he had to be spoken to by the flight crew. On the flight, Murray said Gaul stood in the aisle near the exit door while the flight crew were having their meals behind curtains and "kept verbally taunting the flight crew".

When he was asked to take his seat, Murray quoted Gaul as saying, "I can stand where I want", and further stated, "you cannot make me move from here".

"It would be remiss of BWIA or any flight crew to have somebody who is disruptive and let him remain onboard that aircraft. We cannot do it; we would not do it. It is almost immoral to have somebody like that on your flight," McCarthy told reporters.

"You cannot say he would calm down, what would prevent him from flaring up again?", McCarthy asked.

Questioned as to why Gaul was not restricted from further travel since he was disruptive on the way from London, McLean answered that he had calmed down and as a "compassionate airline" BWIA allowed him to continue travelling.

BWIA contends that Gaul was asked to disembark the aircraft even though he had calmed down once seated on flight 431 from Barbados to Guyana.

"The point was whether we deal with this passenger while on the ground, so it doesn't become an incident while we are in the air", McLean added.

On Sunday March 10, Gaul and his son were checked-in to travel to Guyana on BW431 under escort by a BWIA security agent, "in the interest of the safety and security of its passengers and crew in keeping with BWIA's policy", Murray said.

Gaul told Foreign Minister, Mr. Rudy Insanally on Thursday that he was beaten and dragged off the plane by Barbados police, calling it a "terrible" experience. He said his three-year-old son, Shaka, who was with him was traumatised by the incident.

Minister Insanally said airlines must preserve the balance between passenger rights and their security measures and that he will be writing to BWIA to get their side of the story.