Universal flight cancellation
Denial came too late to tell students
December 22, 2002
Universal Airlines says it was unable to tell students that their sight-seeing trip was cancelled because they themselves were only informed the evening before.
The December 1 trip over Guyana for 160 students, selected by the Ministry of Education, was meant to celebrate the company's first year in operation but became a public-relations fiasco when they were denied permission to fly by the Civil Aviation Department.
In a press release dated December 20, the airline said the trip was not realised in part because of a typographical error on the submission of the route proposal. This was distinct from the flight plan, the airline noted, since flight plans were only submitted by the pilots to the control tower hours before a flight.
Universal apologised to the people of Guyana, the Ministry of Education, teachers, parents, foreign delegates, members of the press, travel agents, pilots and the children for not being able to take them on the 'Freedom Trip' on December 1.
Minister of Public Works and Communication, Anthony Xavier, responsible for the Civil Aviation Department, had said after the cancellation that the Boeing 767 aircraft was deemed too large to fly safely at low altitudes for the purpose of sight-seeing and had cited poor visibility at this time of year in certain regions.
But the airline said its aircraft was one of the most reliable and sophisticated being flown to and from Guyana, and was equipped with Threat and Collision System (TACS) and Ground Proximity Warning System among other safety features.
Universal also said that it had senior and experienced pilots, some of whom had over 30 years experience. Two such pilots had been scheduled to fly the plane on December 1.
The statement went on to say that the airline had proven to be safe and reliable over the past year, and it had never compromised safety and security for any reason. The Freedom Flight had not been intended for profit or publicity, but had been a humanitarian gesture.