It seems as though there has to be a calamity to bring Guyanese people together. That opportunity was served up by Caribbean Airlines, with their callous disregard for the travelling Guyanese public. This whole nightmarish scenario began on Monday, August 29, and concluded at 1.25am on Thursday, September 1. During that time we were entombed at the John F Kennedy airport.
With the money paid by two hundred and thirty-five Guyanese travellers safely in their pocket, Caribbean Airlines began the most dishonest PR in the history of airlines. We understood that Tropical Storm Irene was the initial culprit that engendered this catastrophe. But by suggesting that Irene continued to have something to do with what happened, all the blame would then be levelled there and Caribbean Airlines would be taken off the hook. In any case, Irene did not abruptly materialize; we who were in New York knew about Irene’s appearance on the scene about a week in advance of its arrival. The mere fact that the Governors of New York and New Jersey came up with contingency plans for their various areas exposes the incompetence and the inability for forward thinking of Caribbean Airlines to come up with an idea to mitigate the situation.
Realizing that their excuses were so palpably untrue, their mantra became, “We apologize for any inconvenience caused.“ In the meantime we saw flight after flight being dispatched to various destinations in the Caribbean, and what further exacerbated the situation was when a supposedly chartered (for us) North American airline was turned over to Trinidadian travellers.
We Guyanese then took matters into our own hands. It was refreshing and uplifting to see Guyanese of all races, all ethnic groups caucusing to find a solution to our dilemma. We were not Africans, or Indians, or Portuguese, or Amerindians – no, we were one people, one nation, one destiny. All two hundred and thirty-five of us became comrades in arms; we became friends. We were Guyanese who had to develop a plan to free ourselves from this albatross.
And we did; we crowded the exit counter, which eventually brought the police but which did not deter us. We clapped and shouted, “We will not be moved.” We sang the National Anthem of our country, and some patriotic songs that we thought of. We put our bodies on the line by refusing to allow any other Caribbean Airlines flight to leave. We barred the exit doors and hindered the travelling public from catching their flights.
I would not bore readers with the details already told, like the US$8 voucher for breakfast, and the US$12 one for lunch, and nothing for dinner. I hesitate to say that we endured a sandwich, which was accompanied by water. However, I will try my best not to travel with Caribbean Airlines again, and I would like to see the government of my country taking a harder stand against that airline.
There was a time when we had our own airline; I sincerely hope for that day again.