No apology, BWIA says
Claims Gaul was abusive By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
March 16, 2002

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BWIA West Indian Airways says it will not apologise to passenger Colin Gaul, a Guyana-born Swedish citizen, identified by the airline as Huborn Davidgaul, as it has done nothing to harm him.

However, the airline would like to meet him here in Guyana before his scheduled date of departure on March 22.

At a press briefing held at the airline's local office on Robb Street yesterday, Vice President with responsibility for Customer Services and Operations, Don McLean, said: "I don't think we have to apologise at all. BWIA did not do any harm to the passenger. He was abusive to our crew."

Meanwhile, the Private Sector Commission (PSC), which has met BWIA Area Manager, Dawn Murray, said that the use of force to remove passengers must be relevant, but undue force by any security personnel must be roundly condemned.

The PSC said that for the moment, it would be concerned that the airline was taking all necessary steps, within the approved practices to guarantee safety on its flights and the confidence of passenger using its services from any destination by all citizens of the countries served by BWIA.

Gaul has since made representation on the matter to the Guyana Government through the Foreign Affairs Ministry and has said that he felt his rights were violated.

McLean, who was flanked by Murray and Director with responsibility for Security, Peter McCarthy, at the press conference acknowledged that they had not interviewed Gaul on the issue and had been making efforts to contact him since his arrival in Guyana last Sunday, the day after he, along with his three-year-old son, was forcibly ejected from BW431 en route to Guyana from Barbados. Their version of event was based mainly on reports from their staff. Gaul had made a connection with BWIA in London after travelling from Sweden where he now resides.

The media was invited to the press briefing at which BWIA made new allegations against Gaul, who travelled to Barbados from London en route to Guyana on flight BW901.

Asked whether the airline would deny him travel if he was not contacted before, McLean said that BWIA "would make a determination on the issue at the airport."

Reading from a prepared text, Murray repeated earlier statements that Gaul was abusive to BWIA staff and failed to obey instructions. As such the Barbadian police were called in to intervene. After he was ejected and accommodated at a hotel in Barbados at the expense of the airline, Murray said, a BWIA Security Agent escorted Gaul to Guyana in the interest of the safety and security of its passengers and crew and in keeping with BWIA's policy.

Responding to why Gaul was asked to sign a waiver absolving BWIA of liability, McLean said that only referred to his right to travel on the said day for which he was remunerated but it did not stop him from taking whatever action he might want to pursue against the airline. That waiver, he said, was one in which the passenger "volunteered" to give up his seat.

Asked why the airline continued to deal with him, providing accommodation and travel to Guyana, after he was abusive and was forcibly removed from the aircraft, McLean said that Gaul had calmed down and that BWIA was a "compassionate airline" and he was of the view that Gaul was also encouraged by other passengers not to leave the aircraft when instructed to do so by BWIA security and the Barbadian police. Asked whether Gaul had apologised for his behaviour, McLean said that he did not know.

McCarthy said that pilots had taken a decision since the events of September 11, 2001 to lock the door to the cockpit to prevent an invasion and an incident such as the one that occurred might have been a ruse to lure the captain out of the cockpit. The flight crew, he said, were trained to deal with disruptive passengers and this could not be over-emphasised in the interest of the security and safety of passengers.

He said that if BWIA asked a passenger to deplane, they generally did so voluntarily. It was rare that they were removed by force.

Asked about investigations involving the Barbados police on the issue, McCarthy said that the police were conducting their investigations but BWIA was not privy to the result of those investigations.

He emphasised that once on board an aircraft, passengers must comply with instructions. The action taken by the captain of flight BW431, he said, was in keeping with the Tokya Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft. This includes "acts which, whether or not they are offences, may or do jeopardise the safety of the aircraft or of persons or property therein or which jeopardise good order and discipline on board."

Reminded that Gaul had calmed down and had been quiet for a while before he was accosted by the police and asked if it was necessary to go through with the plan of removing him, McCarthy said: "It was a judgement call. When you are 30,000 ft in the air, you cannot park the plane somewhere up there... It is almost immoral to have somebody like that on board without having to take a particular course of action."

In addition, he said that, the captain of flight BW431 had on board a prisoner and an escort and a disruptive passenger was only making things worse.

Reminded that Guyanese passengers have claimed victimisation by BWIA and immigration officials in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and other parts of the Caribbean and even BWIA, McLean responded that BWIA did no profiling of its passengers.

Further investigations, Murray alleged, revealed that Gaul demonstrated disorderly conduct while on board the flight BW901 from London. This, she said, included kneeling on the seat and talking to passengers behind him in a loud tone during the boarding process in London and standing in the aisle while passengers were boarding and blocking them so that he had to be spoken to by the flight crew.

She claimed that Gaul stood in the aisle near the exit door while the flight crew were having their meal behind curtains and "kept verbally taunting the flight crew." They spoke to him about standing next to the exit door and instructed him to take his seat, she said. But he replied, "I can stand where I want... you cannot make me move." The flight captain was informed of his behaviour and turned on the fasten seat belt sign and the purser announced that all passengers must take their seats.

She said that Gaul returned to his seat voicing his complaints to the surrounding passengers and later during the flight, a friend of his apologised to the flight crew for his friend's "obnoxious behaviour".

Questioned as to whether flight BW431 was informed about Gaul's alleged behaviour on flight BW901, Mc Lean said "No. The crew on board did not know that he had come from London. They would not have known. It was only after subsequent investigations."

A number of passengers, who travelled on the same flight with Gaul have since expressed disgust at the treatment meted out to Gaul and have said it was unwarranted. They include Yuolanda Barker; Proprietrix of Clairan's Enterprise, Claire Pires; Chief Medical Technologist attached to the National Blood Transfusion Service, Lynette Hardy; and passengers Heather Martins and Deochan Awadhnarine. They have indicated their willingness to serve as witnesses "in this very unfortunate and sad incident."