American Airlines apologises to Caribbean PMs over incident in Guyana


(CMC) — American Airlines has extended its “sincerest apology” to Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, and his St Vincent and the Grenadines counterpart, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, after they became the latest high-level officials to fall victim to the airline’s policy on leaving Guyana earlier this month.

The Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the airline had refused to allow the two prime ministers, who were in Georgetown attending the 2023 International Energy Conference and Expo, to check-in through the VIP Lounge at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).

The Foreign Ministry said the Guyana government had previously protested this position taken by American Airlines against its own high and senior government officials, but without success.

In separate February 20 letters sent to the two prime ministers, American Airlines Managing Director, International Government Affairs, Robert Wirick, offered his “sincerest apology for not proactively approving the request for expedited treatment and the inconvenience caused during your departure from Guyana’s Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).

“We sincerely regret that we fell short of your expectations while travelling from Guyana to Miami to connect on a flight to The Bahamas for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit,” he wrote.

“American greatly treasures the relationship with you and the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. We will strive to ensure that all of your future travels on our airline are pleasant and exceed your expectations. American prides itself on delivering a high level of respect and service that our customers deserve. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns,” Wirick said in the letter.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Gonsalves told radio listeners in his homeland that he is not one to be “easily offended and disrespected” and that “first of all, nobody forced me to do anything”.

He recalled that both he and Rowley were inside the VIP lounge “early” on the morning of their departure.“I think it was (as) we are going to Miami and then to Bahamas and the Chief of Protocol came and said that the people who are doing the check in at AA requested that we come there so that they could identify the face to the passport. That’s what I understand. So I said, ‘Fine. Keith, let’s go.’

Gonsalves said that they stood a short distance from the counter and after being told that the protocol details had been completed he left the area.

“Nobody asked anything. I just put up, Keith and I, we stood up talking. Nobody asked us anything. So I thought (what) was required was just a visual identification.

“The only inconvenience for me is that I was drinking a cup of black coffee earlier that morning. That by the time I got back it was cold and just had to get another one. I mean I understand the government of Guyana has some problems there because of how AA deal with it and could understand the government of Guyana raising it from the standpoint of how heads of government may be treated or whoever.

“I don’t know the whole history. I understand there’s something there but it’s the first time that I was ever requested by AA anywhere to come and turn up at the counter when I travel as Prime Minister,” Gonsalves said.

While he agreed what occurred in Guyana was “unusual”, Gonsalves said he wanted to make it clear that “I am not knocking the Guyana government. I am saying they have their history with them and there’s an issue which they’re taken up … to clarify, but I personally, as Ralph, was no sweat off my nose”.

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  1. Heads of Government and Diplomats have always been allowed certain courtesies and it was regrettable that American Airlines acted the way they did to Prime Ministers Rowley and Gonsalves. It was shameful, regrettable and despicable.

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