Penalty for narcotics on plane shouldn’t be applied only to airline

Dear Editor,

The difficulty in getting flights to and from North America underscores a serious phenomenon as it relates to the paucity, even reluctance, of operators to continue to venture into the airline business serving Guyanese travellers particularly. And credit must be given to Caribbean Airlines for being there in both the high and low seasons, though their service can be taken up a few notches for the fares they charge.

Incompetence by some investors aside, the penalty against airlines for narcotics found on board is a discouragement to competition against the entrenched Caribbean Airlines. It is known that narcotics have been traced from time to time to passengers using Caribbean Airlines but it is not public knowledge that Caribbean Airlines is being penalized. In fact, that Caribbean Airlines is still airborne suggests that they either have the capacity to pay for enhanced security apparatus or to pay the fines whenever a breach is discovered or that there is some workable arrangement in place that does not sound the death knell to that airline. Speculation is justified in the circumstances.

But the accommodation of other international operators, due diligence being done, must be encouraged in order to cater to rapidly growing Guyanese passenger traffic. We are no longer living in the time when visas to USA and Canada were a rarity. Guyanese crisscross the airspace with increasing frequency and in larger numbers. There is an expanding market in the airline industry.

Is it sufficient that we must be constrained by what a single carrier dishes out?

Subject to any other mechanism being in place of which I am ignorant, I am of the view that the present protocol where an airline alone is penalized for narcotics found on board should be revisited. For narcotics to get on board, whether on passengers or otherwise, the security system – moreso the human aspects of that system – would have failed deliberately or otherwise.

Airlines contract security organizations, equipment, baggage handlers, etc. The Government security apparatus also has more than a passing presence at our two international airports. What are their responsibilities? Aren’t they stakeholders in the scheme of things? Should they escape culpability? Were all stakeholders to be penalized, I think more detection would occur at source rather than at destination. The distribution of penalty would then provide a more encouraging and enabling environment for new airlines to service a growing demand and to offer air travellers more choices.

If the situation is different from what I have written above, I would appreciate to be enlightened.

 Yours faithfully,

T. Jadunauth

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