EZjet’s stranded passengers – CAL agrees to bridge impact


Caribbean Airlines agrees to bridge impact as Ezjet points to trail of troubles with leasing companies

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Written by Denis Scott Chabrol   – Demerara Waves
Saturday, 10 November 2012 15:04

President Donald Ramotar with Caribbean Airlines officials and members of the government team (GINA photo)

The Trinidad and Tobago-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) has agreed to rescue passengers left stranded by the suspended Ezjet Airways that is now counting debts owed by two leasing companies.

Aviation Minister, Robeson Benn told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com) that talks earlier Saturday have secured a commitment by CAL to add an additional plane on the Guyana route for the Christmas peak period and assist with the Ezjet fall-out.

He said Ezjet is next week expected to provide a clearer idea of the number of stranded passengers and the estimated 30,000 reservations through November and December.   

“I think we had a fruitful discussion but things will unfold over the next three to four days based on statistics and information and passengers and money available to Ezjet,” he said.

Benn said Caribbean Airlines has agreed to examine the possibility of “holding the fares reasonable” based on the availability of space.

Asked whether the Guyana government would have liked a better outcome of the talks, Benn said the administration was “reasonably satisfied.”

“No, no. There is nothing much more than we can reasonably expect given the fact that we still require information. Ezjet is still compiling information on what the situation is with respect to their passengers,” he added.

Representing CAL were its Chairman, Rabindra Moonan; Vice Chairman Mohan Jaikaran and acting Chief Executive Officer,Robert Corbie. On the Guyana side were President Donald Ramotar; Aviation Minister, Benn and Tourism and Commerce Minister, Irfaan Ali.

The discussions were held even as Ezjet was explaining the reasons why the United States Department of Transportation’ (DOT) and the Guyana Civil Aviation Administration suspended the airline’s operations earlier this week.

Ezjet, meanwhile, pledged that all passengers will be given full refund for the unused portions of their tickets. To get their refunds, passengers are being asked to contact the airline’s Head Office at 23 Brickdam, Georgetown or call them on (592)-225-7597, (592)-225-9791, (592)-225-7585 or (592)-225-7599 or email them at ezjetairlines@gmail.com .

Ezjet has declined to say how much it owes two leasing companies- Dynamic Airways and Swift Air- but has claimed that the total amount owed by those two companies is US$2,230,000. Ezjet says there has been “poor collection of ticket sales” from travel agencies amounting to another US$1.5 million.

“These monies were collected from passengers but not yet handed over to the airline. This put a financial strain on the airline that is requested to pre-pay for its flights and fuel,” the airline said in a statement.

As early as October 23, Ezjet knew that it was in trouble when Swift delivered to EZjet a notice of cancellation because of monies owed to the leasing company. Ezjet said it, however, countered by notifying Swift Air of a more than US$630,000 debt in unpaid invoices as well as another US$200,000 for amenities provided to passengers such as hotel, meals, and other charges relating to delays that were attributed to Swift Air.

Ezjet claimed that passengers were on November 7 were left stranded in Trinidad and Guyana and it was after the aircraft had taken off that Swift Air contacted US and Canadian authorities, notifying them that they intended to stop flying.

EZjet said it paid US$89,000 to Swift Air within the past week as the carrier requested, and EZjet offered to pay US$205,000 more to Swift Air on Wednesday of last week, providing only that Swift Air would state whether it planned to continue or stop flying. “There was no answer,” Ezjet said.

Ezjet claimed that Swift Air has not responded to the dispute concerning the notice of cancellation.

According to Ezjet, Swift Air did not take passengers on November 2 ,  3 and 7 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport , Guyana’s Cheddi Jagan International Airport and Trinidad’s Piarco International Airport.

“No advance notification was provided to EZjet and we could do very little to avoid this action of Swift Air. Swift felt there was no need to inform EZjet and its passengers of its actions. They did not want the DOT to learn of this cancellation and now EZjet is paying the price for Swift Air’s action,” EzJet added.

Ezjet claimed that the United States Department of Transport (DOT) suspended the airline on November 8 “after receiving false and misleading information from Swift Air. “Swift lied to the DOT in order to protect themselves from the liability of having to return all U.S. passengers that they took to Guyana,” Ezjet added. The airline says it is awaiting a formal response from DOT.

Ezjet said its financial problems predated Swift Air because the previous leasing company, Dynamic Airways, suspended its operations. EZjet claims that Dynamic Airways owes it more than $1.5 million dollars which includes an $800,000 cash security deposit.  “EZjet is in the process of seeking legal action against Dynamic Airways for recovery of the sums owing.”

Addressing passengers directly, Ezjet said “we never meant for this to happen. We tried our best to avoid it. And we are hurt about the way the situation has turned out. In order to better serve you and avoid the mistakes of the past, we need time to make changes internally. Regrettably, those changes cannot be made under these present circumstances.”  Ezjet said it was regrouping and planning to recommence operations soon.

Like all other airlines, Ezjet was required to deposit a security bond of US$200,000 refund locally-booked passengers should difficulties such as this arise.

Ezjet’s suspension came 17 days after news broke that its Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Sonny Ramdeo was sued for alleged embezzlement of US$5.4 million from the US-based Promise Healthcare and 11 of its hospitals.

A section of the lawsuit alleges that between August and October, 2012 Ramdeo stole  $5,387,000 from Promise by diverting its funds to Ez Jet. He did this by diverting money in the PayServ account that had been deposited for payment of Promise’s payroll taxes to his jet charter company, EZJet GT Inc.

Ramdeo and his companies -PayServ Tax and Ez-Jet GT- are named as defendants in the lawsuit.  Ramdeo has since stepped down as CEO of the airline and Rosalinda Rasool named as his acting successor.

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda by Brian Mcknight w/lyrics


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