Roraima Airways Chief Executive Officer Captain Gerry Gouveia says that the “legitimate concern” over the recent delay in returning home experienced by a number of Cubans on account of mechanical defects to the Air Aruba aircraft should not be allowed to overshadow the significance of the service to promoting “friendships and business ties” between Cuba and Guyana. “Of course we are concerned when these unexpected events occur but unforeseen emergencies occur in the aviation sector and when things like these occur the challenges are as much for the travelers who are inconvenienced as they are for the airlines’ representatives who have got to deal with the administrative arrangements associated with ensuring that the situation is kept under control and that the passengers return home as quickly as well as issues to do with accommodating them until they are able to return home,” Gouveia, whose company is the local representative for Aruba, said.
“When everything is taken account of and despite the challenges that will occur from time to time – and if you ask the Cubans themselves – I believe that they will admit that their visits here are worth the while. Apart from the fact that they come here to get business done I see the service as contributing to the cementing of ties between Cuba and Guyana at a people to people level. These days we see ordinary Cubans walking the streets of Guyana and Guyanese and Cubans reaching out to each other. What is more is that as far as I can see ordinary Guyanese and Cubans enjoy excellent relationships. When, historically, we have spoken about Caribbean unity we have referred only to the English-speaking Caribbean, never mind the fact that the Caribbean is a multi-lingual society. I believe that increasingly, Cuba is taking its rightful place in the Caribbean and the service that we are providing along with Aruba Air is helping Cuba to take that place.
When Stabroek Business visited the Roraima Duke Lodge on Wednesday several of the stranded Cubans were having lunch and chatting in an open dining area. Gouveia told Stabroek Business that apart from providing accommodation and meals for the Cubans, Roraima had also been in touch with other hotels seeking to facilitate accommodation. “Frankly, when these issues arise one of our biggest concerns is with ensuring that the affected persons are well-treated during their delay in Guyana. Apart from hospitality being the policy of the company we never fail to bear in mind that the flow of Cuban visitors to Guyana is sustained and that it would be bad business to be indifferent when these challenges occur.
Earlier in the week Roraima Airways issued a statement in which it said that the delay and attendant inconvenience had resulted from “mechanical issues arising from the engine of the Aruba Air aircraft dedicated to its Guyana route being hit by birds on Sunday last.” The statement quoted Gouveia as saying that “the mechanical issue took a bit longer to rectify than initially anticipated and the aircraft is now back in service. Additionally, a second aircraft was being diverted to the Guyana route to effectively deal with the backlog of passengers, the statement added.
“Once the emergency surfaced, arrangements were immediately put in place to have them comfortably accommodated in groups so that they could interact among themselves and at the same time be communicated with together and updated on departure information” Gouveia said, adding that “that is something that we, as a company, are particularly proud of.”