Every now and again, a government in this country succeeds in getting something closer to what may be considered right, even by the harshest critics. Though too far apart, when these occasions come to light, it is time to say, and support, publicly through a word of appreciation for what should be done more frequently, what should become the norm.
The announced increase in the airline cash bond required represents such a positive long-awaited development. There is no need to revisit today the many instances over the years when distressed and abandoned Guyanese passengers were left on their own, with no helping Big Brother to turn to, no influential state official available for even a listening, and none doing much other than to try to soothe and get rid of supplicants as quickly as was convenient. It was, still is for those with their war stories made vivid by memory, of the Guyanese traveler being taken advantage of by mainly unscrupulous and unskilled Guyanese fly-by-night aviation hustlers, while left on their own by an uninterested and uncaring Guyanese government. It was the now age-old story of Guyanese political sins, the cardinal one of dog eating dog, while the political masters feasted on the choice cuts provided to protect friends and cronies.
Now, at long last, there is the comfort of some protection for the little guys, the individual traveler, sometimes cash strapped, spending hard-earned funds, to visit for an illness, a funeral, a religious commemoration, or something usually as personally and emotionally challenging. It should be observed that holidaying and partying are given short shrift, though they still count. For after all, a paying traveler-in advance, no less-is a still a bona fide traveler with legitimate rights. Those rights include the facilities to make alternative arrangements, with the covering funds available, and now held in reserve. That would be the newly increased amount that is a bit more realistic and is a start. Let the start become norm.
It is a start because, at any specific time (especially the more favoured holidays of Mash and Christmas), there are thousands of Guyanese customers waiting on the date that they reserved for flying, and who have already paid the full price using some noncash facility. The travel dates of many such advance paying passengers, which is the longstanding norm, could be months away.
Many things could surface, things that are wrong and startling, and which expose the passengers to loss: loss of money, loss of time that stands unmoving, loss of job security. For those who cannot absorb the substantial financial blow of close to a thousand US dollars, whose credit facilities may be maxed out, and who are unable to come up with quick, emergency cash, this could be the ultimate travel nightmare of being stranded, with no cash, and no one to turn to for timely, necessary help.
So, when a carrier is unable to deliver on its obligations, the very least that should follow is some official protective mechanism that enables the stranded and strapped to be afforded the relief that could make a difference, with the uppermost being returning urgently to that all-important job. There is none of the customary 28-day sick leave provision long present in this country over there to provide temporary shelter, while the claims process and bureaucracy are expedited and overcome respectively.
Thus, the recently announced cash bond represents a start, one in the right direction, which gives the future marooned the opportunity and channel to make other travel arrangements and keep moving. This has been sadly lacking for a long time here to the detriment and anger of many Guyanese, who found themselves on the losing end of dirty airline deals with newly discovered dishonorable counterparties.
Those others, who have weeks or months before they actually fly, have a sufficient cushion of time and space to rearrange their affairs. This paper understands that there is a balance between welcoming legitimate airline operators, while safeguarding the interests of citizens, who have been burnt before and that the combined bonds of almost 94 million dollars, will only go so far, with some held for tax purposes. It is a start, with accompanying vigilance required.
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