– passengers forced to take turns sleeping in single hotel room
By Lin-Jay Harry-Voglezon (American International News Service)
Guyanese burst into tears, spontaneous anger and protest action at the JFK International Airport on Christmas Eve Day. The accumulated effects of several rescheduled and cancelled flights by Dynamic Airways over six days had taken its toll.
Attempts to reach managers of the airline for explanations and responses to allegations were futile. But during Tuesday night and Wednesday morning a press release purportedly from Dynamic Airways was given to passengers without any signature or company insignia.
It stated that “unanticipated technical issues with an electronic component on one of its Boeing 767 aircraft” significantly disrupted regular schedules. It also stated that “all passengers booked on flights 401 and 402 from December 24 have been given a full refund plus an additional voucher for a $200 discount on future travel.”
The release also advised passengers to contact their travel agents, call the contact number provided and check the airline’s website for further information. It also promised that services would have resumed yesterday.
No passenger could verify that anyone received a refund. Throughout Wednesday afternoon, Cheapoair, an international travel agency, sought clarifications from the airline but failed to reach any manager. It reported that lower level airline representatives said they lacked knowledge of the press release. It is the responsibility of the airline to issue refunds not the travel agencies, Cheapoair explained.
Some passengers booked alternative flights which could have cost as much as an additional US$1,500 and result in approximately 40 hours of travelling time depending on the airline chosen, routes, and waiting time for interconnecting flights.
A direct flight from JFK to Guyana takes approximately five hours. Several Guyanese had already travelled eight or more hours by land or air from different states in the US for their flights to Guyana.
Some who had contacts in New York travelled to and from Boroughs like the Bronx and Queens costing them about $40 per trip. Others slept at the airport since last week Friday without a shower.
Rawle Walcott, a well experienced international traveler who was scheduled to travel on December 22, got a boarding pass at 9.15 pm on Tuesday, December23 for flight 403. Then he was crudely told later that he and the other passengers must retrieve their baggage. The pilot and crew had disembarked the airplane. This cast doubts on the explanations.
He reported that an airline representative wanted them to believe that a plane part would have arrived within 45 minutes from Texas. “That’s a ridiculous explanation,” he remarked, when a plane takes over three hours from Texas and parts could easily be obtained in New York.
Some passengers did their own investigations and learnt that the charter pilots and crews were refusing to work on terms offered by Dynamic Airways. Efforts to verify this failed as airport personnel responded cynically in body language but neither confirmed nor denied the information.
But the information trend suggests that the airline is faced with stringent budgets and management issues. Unlike the other airlines one cannot see a symbol of or direction to find the check-in point for Dynamic Airways.
It uses two desks in the vicinity of the airport terminals for the processing of passengers instead of the terminals provided for such purpose. Besides passengers are irked by the quality of communication which resembles back dam mentality.
The very peeved seven-member Da Silva family of West Coast Berbice, who were to arrive in Guyana days ago, for a scheduled family event they sponsored, travelled from Maryland. Their airfares to Guyana had already cost $7,000, in addition to their 15 suitcases of items for the event, they said.
They reported that only on Monday night did the airline accommodate them in a single room with one king sized bed at a nearby hotel. No meals were provided and they had to take turns to sleep.
The family also lamented the treatment of an elderly wheel chair-bound passenger who arrived at the airport about 24 hours before them. The woman was hungry, they said. A member of their family had to give away the meal she bought.
They also witnessed, and were corroborated by other passengers, that when a flight became available on December 23, the elderly wheel chair-bound woman was bypassed even though she had a ticket for first class travel.
Passengers claimed that many ticket holders for that particular flight were also surreptitiously bypassed in preference for particular people. That was the straw that sparked the protest on Wednesday morning.
One woman, who burst into tears as she spoke to me, like others who have not been to Guyana in twenty or more years, lamented that she was really looking forward to spending Christmas with her family.
She said that for the past two years she worked two fulltime jobs without a vacation but already wasted three days of the 14 days available to her now, at the airport. “I am neither having fun nor making money at the moment”, she sobbed.
The Bishop family of Charlestown who wanted to celebrate their great-great grandmother’s 100th birthday on Christmas Day was no less pained. Meanwhile, brides and bride grooms who were awaiting their suits and gowns might have postponed their ceremonies or found alternatives.
Dynamic Airways is said to be a US Air Carrier based in North Carolina but charters its airplanes from AERO VIP. Besides Guyana, it serves Hong Kong, Guam and Palau. Today, it is scheduled to open new services between Changsha, China and Los Angeles via Anchorage.
For a number of years international travel to Guyana has been problematic. Several airlines have eitherwithdrawn their services, collapsed or imposed unnecessarily high fares.
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