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.”