Dynamic Airways’ Guyana to US service got off to a troubling start with its inaugural flight marred by delays, equipment breakdowns and poor service and now over 100 passengers are stranded in New York after US authorities grounded the airline over deficiencies in its baggage system there.
After leaving the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri for the JFK International Airport in New York following hours of delays yesterday morning, the flight was due to return to Guyana later in the day but US airport authorities stopped the plane from leaving after the airline’s ground handling agency reportedly mixed up the luggage of several passengers. Over a hundred passengers were left stranded.
Speaking to Stabroek News last night, CEO of Roraima Airways and the Guyanese partner for Dynamic Airways, Gerry Gouveia said that they are working hard to resolve the problem and the ground handler at JFK has been dismissed. The flight is now expected to depart from New York on Tuesday morning.
Passengers who are stranded and have to return to Guyana immediately will be placed on another airline, Gouveia said. He stated that they were working to book tickets on Caribbean Airlines to bring them home. “We are not leaving them stranded…we are trying very hard to put them on Caribbean Airlines if they need to come back home immediately,” he stressed. The local agent added that the other passengers will depart on Tuesday and the airline “just have to get over these things” and everything will be fine.
Dynamic Airlines on Thursday made its inaugural flight to Guyana from New York. That flight, too, was marked by delays and the flight did not arrive until long after the scheduled time. The Guyana-New York leg was also hit by delays. The plane was scheduled to depart at 12am yesterday but did not take-off until 4:45am.
“Maybe Dynamic rushed to get started hoping to cash-in on the peak season profits (but) whatever the case, it was a dynamic disaster,” one passenger said. A Stabroek News reporter on the flight said that at the check-in counter at the CJIA, for a period from around 9pm to 10:30pm on Thursday, all passengers, amounting to about 150 persons, were locked out. Eventually, staff of Roraima collected their passports and said that they had to manually enter passengers’ particulars to be uploaded to a TSA database in the US as the company’s automated system was not working. For close to an hour, she waited for her passport to be returned, the reporter said.
She said that no one gave them any official updates on the status of the flight and they heard from an airline employee that the cabin crew was sleeping and they would be departing at 4am. Eventually, an official departure time of 3am was announced and subsequently they were told that this was pushed back to 4am. Roraima staff said that they would provide breakfast and curried chicken with rice was provided after 3am.
Upon arrival at JFK, the pilot announced that they had to wait for a terminal to be assigned for disembarking and as they waited, airport security vehicles surrounded the aircraft. Eventually, two shuttles were provided and they were escorted to the terminal where sniffer dog sniffed everyone from the flight. All the passengers were also subjected to a thorough check by the US security officials.
The reporter said that no airline official told them anything about the airline’s troubles and it was only through other contacts, that they learnt that the US authorities grounded the flight because the airline had no proper system for baggage at JFK. She said that they were told that they would now be returning on Tuesday.
The summer peak travelling period has begun and competition has heated up among major airlines that fly between Guyana and North American destinations. Aggressive competition appears to be pushing down the airfares from Guyana to various North American destinations, with new carriers hoping to cash in on the lucrative market with fares lower than those being offered by the four existing airlines.
It was expected that with the arrival of Dynamic Airways travellers should see a reduction in the cost they pay for flights to both New York and Toronto. Announcing the new service earlier this month, the company’s Vice President Tom Johnson said that Dynamic is here for the “long haul” with the future of the country in mind. “We are not a charter. There is no third man here. We own many planes so passengers will never be left stranded… we have nothing to hide and have submitted all documentation… maybe over a thousand documents and the US$200,000 bond required,” Johnson had said.