American Airlines apologises to PM over VIP snub

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, right, with Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves, centre, and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the 44th Regular Meeting of the Caricom Heads of Government in Bahamas on February 16. – Photo courtesy OPM

American Airlines has apologised to Prime Ministers of Trinidad and Tobago and St Vincent and the Grenadines for an apparent VIP snub that occurred when he was leaving Guyana’s Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) last Wednesday.

Dr Rowley and St Vincent’s Dr Ralph Gonsalves were denied the courtesies for check-in procedures to be conducted on their behalf, according to a media report based on a statement by Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Rowley and Gonsalves had attended the 2023 International Energy Conference and Expo and were en route to Miami for the 44th Caricom summit in Nassau, Bahamas.

Managing director of American Airlines Robert A Wirick in a letter to Rowley said, “Please accept my sincerest apology for not proactively approving the request for expedited treatment and the inconvenience caused during your departure for Guyana’s 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 Caricom Summit.”

The release also said the airlines greatly treasures the relationship with Rowley and the citizens of TT.

Wirick added via the release, “We will strive to ensure that all of your future travels on our airlines 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.”

A statement from the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Monday said Rowley was denied the courtesies usually extended to heads of government at the airport, which would allow check-in procedures to be conducted on their behalf.

“Instead, American Airlines insisted that the Prime Minister and delegation, who were in the Government-operated VIP Lounge, present themselves at the check-in counter. The courtesies were requested by the Government of Guyana. On being denied the courtesies, the Prime Minister and delegation complied with the request to present themselves at the American Airlines check-in counter to complete the procedures, without incident. Protocol officials from Guyana and from Trinidad and Tobago interacted with the airline staff to complete the check-in of the Prime Minister. The Protocol staff were professional and efficient in their handling of the matter and avoided further inconvenience or embarrassment to the Prime Minister. The delegation travelled to Nassau without further incident.”