PMs Gonsalves, Rowley humiliated at Guyana airport

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves.
United Nations / Ryan Brown

Guyana’s government Thursday says it planned to write the top echelons of American Airlines after the local offices humiliated prime ministers Keith Rowley and Ralph Gonsalves as they were preparing to leave Guyana on Wednesday.

In normal circumstances, heads of government and senior members of their delegation are allowed to head to the VIP areas while foreign service protocol officers complete their airline counter check-ins and security protocols, sparing them the hassle of competing with passengers to board.

The two and other top officials were leaving Guyana after attending the opening day of a three-day oil and gas conference at which both spoke earlier in the day when they were pulled from the VIP area and made to line up. The ministry of foreign affairs has said it is growing increasingly frustrated and concerned with this practice by AA and plans to take action to correct this as other airlines allow dignitaries to receive VIP treatment with hassles.

Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley.
Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley. Government of Trinidad and Tobago

The prime ministers were headed to the Caribbean Community summit in The Bahamas via Miami when the incident occurred. The summit opened late Wednesday in Nassau with glittering cultural presentations and calls for regional action to help Haiti.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation sincerely regrets the inconvenience caused to the honorable prime ministers of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago on their departure from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. All government protocols were in place to facilitate their departure. American Airlines having been written to, prior to the arrival of the prime ministers in Guyana for them to be accorded the courtesies of check-in on departure from the VIP Lounge, the airline refused to acquiesce to the ministry’s request and insisted that the prime ministers leave the lounge to present themselves to the check-in counter,” the ministry said.

It noted that AA has taken similar action against local dignitaries despite protestations “but they have continued to pay scant regard to the government’s requests for entitlements to the positions held to be respected. It is the government’s intent to formally communicate its displeasure of this most recent action by the airline that has caused embarrassment not only nationally, but also to our regional friends.”