An American Airlines flight from New York City to Guyana was returned to JFK Airport after a disruption in which a passenger called a crew member a “waiter”. Flight 2557 was bound for Georgetown, Guyana, on July 18 when it turned back to the Big Apple due to the incident involving Joel Ghansham.
Ghansham told local outlet Demerara Waves Online News that it began when he asked a flight attendant for help putting his luggage in the overhead compartment because he recently underwent spine surgery. “He said, ‘No, I don’t do that.’ He said, ‘I don’t get paid that kind of money but if you don’t like it there is always another airline,’” Ghansham, who was seated in business class, told the outlet. Another crew member then reportedly helped him with the luggage.
During the beverage service later, the initial crew member leaned back toward Ghansham. “He asked me if I wanted something to drink but I didn’t respond because I didn’t want to cause a scene, and he asked again and I said, ‘No thank you, waiter,’” he told Stabroek News, which described him as a “cultural activist”.
The crew member responded that he was not a waiter and that he had the power to turn the plane around, according to the outlet. Ghansham claimed in a YouTube interview that he told the flight attendant: “You must be God, so you do it.” Moments later, the pilot announced that the plane was returning to JFK Airport, where the passenger said he was removed from the flight and interviewed by authorities before being allowed to leave.
In an email to The Post, an American Airlines rep described Ghansham as a “disruptive passenger” who forced the flight to return to the city. “Safety and security are our top priorities, and we thank our customers for their understanding and our team members for their professionalism in managing a difficult situation,” the spokesperson wrote. But Ghansham took issue with the characterization. “There was not a disruption. I never got up. There was not an argument, there was not a confrontation, nobody touched each other. He was wearing a mask. He wasn’t even loud. It was just his pride,” he said in the video.
Two days after the flight, the airline offered Ghansham an apology and provided him with 10,000 free miles as compensation. “We are writing to follow up with you about the delay of flight AA2557 on July 18, 2023. We recognize that many of our customers’ important plans were significantly affected, and for that, we are very sorry,” a letter posted by the outlet reads.
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