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Guyanese continue to complain about high airfare, still haven’t learnt their lesson about being cheap

November 15, 2012 1 comment

A flight from Trinidad to Caracas or a flight to Suriname cost the same or more than a flight from Trinidad to Guyana, but for some strange reason Guyanese think they are special and should pay less.

Caribbean Airlines should come out and explain that the Trinidad government subsidize the Trinidad to JFK leg.

Guyana government should come out and explain why a flight from Ogle to Mabaruma cost as much as a flight from Guyana to Trinidad.

Guyanese should stop being complainers and continue to support EzJet because that is the kind of service they want to pay for.

The EZjet saga
NOVEMBER 15, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER EDITORIAL

The grounding of EZjet has raised more questions than answers. One major question is whether the deposit demanded by the Guyana government is enough to compensate passengers affected by any situation that may force the airline to be grounded.
The deposit demanded by the Guyana Government is US$200,000, a sum that is meaningless when one considers that airlines sell tickets in advance of flights. Sometimes, as in the case of EZjet, tickets are sold months in advance. This is because airlines announce cheaper rates. They all claim that the further ahead one buys a ticket the cheaper is that ticket.
More recently, EZjet announced a promotion that appeared to be more stupid than sound. It was selling tickets for less than US$1,000 that would allow the passenger repeated travel to destinations in the United States, Trinidad and Tobago and Canada. Given Guyana’s population, assuming that everyone would have travelled then many people might have been stranded.
Each flight would have taken out two hundred people. So if two thousand people had jumped at the offer the airline would have had to make ten flights to move them to a destination. It would then have had to make ten flights to return them. Each would have flown once but many would not have been able to secure a seat on future flights to capitalize on the virtually free travel.
This was a smart promotion since it would have guaranteed full flights in and out of Guyana for the month. In reality there would have been no free travel.
Assuming that the airline had sold two tickets on the promotion then with the collapse the deposit would not have been enough to cover the cost of refund. A mere two hundred passengers would have been refunded. And this is the plight of many who recently booked to travel on EZjet.
Money is a scarce commodity and people who would have forked out their money would have descended on the ticket offices for their refund. And this is what is happening now. However, the airline seems not to have money to effect the refund. Needless to say, this is angering those affected by the collapse.
Those who are most angered are those who were sold tickets by the airline even after the airline had its licence suspended by the United States Department of Transportation and the Guyana Government. Minister of Works, Robeson Benn, when he announced the Guyana position, said that this step was intended to ensure that no more tickets were sold. This was definitely not the case.
The Minister also said that his government has long been seeking low cost carriers to operate out of Guyana. However, every attempt has failed; none of those that came as low cost carriers survived for longer than a year.
The question is whether Guyana does adequate feasibility study.
We know that operating out of New York or any North American port would entail a due diligence by the United States Department of Transportation. Minister Benn said that Guyana simply accepted the findings of the US authorities.
What we saw was that all the airlines that came simply did not have a large reservoir of funds hence they were operating on a shoe string. Any ripple would lead to their collapse and there have always been ripples sparked by their indebtedness to the leasing carrier.
The big question, then, is whether there could ever be a low cost carrier operating between Georgetown and North America.
We do know that the money charged by the other operators is excessively high. Indeed, the government has had to call in these carriers to discuss the fares and from time to time and actually got lower fares but such drop has been temporary.
In one case, Guyanese travelling through Trinidad to New York found that half of the ticket cost was for the leg to Trinidad.
This could not be the case; Guyanese are fleeced but this will always be the case until there is a national airline.

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US Department of Transport has advised that it has suspended EZjet flights, Guyana govt reluctantly does same

November 9, 2012 Leave a comment

EzJet flights suspended

The United States Department of Transport has advised that it has suspended the operations EZjet Air Services Inc and as a result the Government of Guyana through the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has followed suit.

Transport Minister Robeson Benn made the announcement this afternoon at a news conference, where he also blamed the media and, in particular, Kaieteur News for negatively reporting on the issues surrounding the airline and contributing to the creation of a public frenzy.

Benn said that the GCAA has suspended the airline’s routes—Georgetown to New York; Georgetown to Toronto and Georgetown to Trinidad and Tobago—as a result of the company’s issues with carrier Swift Air, whose planes EZjet wet leases, with respect to payments.

“We are seeking further details on this issue and the public will be advised shortly,” Benn said.

Benn said that acting Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Irfaan Ali, after a meeting he had with President Donald Ramotar, has been instructed to undertake swift action to assist the affected passengers.

“We are disappointed and unhappy that our efforts to bring low cost operations [to create] a more competitive environment. It has not turned out as expected,” he said. He added that the government had hoped that the low cost travel would have benefited tourism and led to lowering of fares.

The minister said that the calculations are ongoing to see how many passengers would be affected but he confirmed that ticket sales for the airline has ceased.

Two weeks ago, this newspaper reported that Sonny Ramdeo, the CEO of EZjet, had been sued in the United States by a former employer for allegedly embezzling monies entrusted to him.

He is facing a civil suit in the United States that his former employers filed, accusing him of devising a “sophisticated scheme of fraud and deception” to embezzle some US$5.4 million from them. Following the news of his being sued, Ramdeo stepped down from his post as Chief Executive Officer.

Reports out of the US state that Promise Healthcare and 11 of its hospitals brought the suit against Ramdeo, their former payroll manager who they hired eight years ago to manage the payroll for 3,500 employees in hospitals nationwide.

Named along with Ramdeo as plaintiffs in the suit are EZjet GT and PayServ Tax, a company that Ramdeo allegedly set up to commit the fraud. Shortly afterwards, acting CEO of the airline Rosalinda Rasul gave all assurances that the company had not owed any of its goods and service providers and that the court matter is a private one not expected to affect the operations of the airline.

EZjet today issued the following press release asking for patience and saying its looking for new investors:

PRESS RELEASE

EZjet Air Services has temporarily suspended its operations due to financial hardship created by its vendors and agents owing EZjet as well as some mismanagement.

The suspension of services comes after EZjet direct carrier Swift Air took off from Port of Spain, Trinidad on November 7th leaving passengers stranded. Swift Air’s CEO, Jeff Conry used a maintenance issue to deplane all the passengers after filling up with fuel paid for by EZjet and taking off to Buffalo, NY with no advance notification to EZjet of Swift’s intent to not to operate the flight or return the passengers.

Swift Air also forced EZjet to cancel its flight scheduled for 2nd & 3rd of November due to the fact that they abandoned passengers at the JFK airport and took another job flying for the

Boston Celtics while inconveniencing EZjet’s passengers.

While Swift Air claims it has not been paid, EZjet believes Swift Air owes EZjet over US$800,000+ relating to various charges including using substitute aircraft when theirs was damaged, ground services, hotel stays for passengers, food and other amenities during delays cause by them.

While EZjet has invoiced Swift Air for reimbursement of these charges, Swift Air has not paid any of EZjet’s invoices.

Swift Air replaced Dynamic Airways after Dynamic suspended its operations owing EZjet over US$1.5 million dollars which includes an US$800,000 cash security deposit. EZjet is in the process of seeking legal action against Dynamic Airways for recovery of the sums owing.

These outstanding balances coupled with the poor collection of ticket sales from the travel agencies has left EZjet in a financial strain. Our CEO states EZjet will of course do the right thing and refund our passengers monies paid unused portion of their tickets.

We apologize to our customers.

We ask the passengers to be patient with our staff and bear with us as we process the refunds.

EZjet is in the process of seeking new investors with the hopes of restarting its Guyana services.

http://www.stabroeknews.com/2012/news/11/09/ezjet-operations-suspended/

Sonny Ramdeo and his EZjet venture may be about to end their short flight into infamy

October 30, 2012 Leave a comment

OCTOBER 30, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER LETTERS

DEAR EDITOR,
When Sonny Ramdeo, the former CEO of EZjet, announced his EZjet venture, critics immediately claimed that Sonny lacked the personal resources to fund such an enterprise and accused him of fronting for the venture’s real owner(s). Sonny responded by calling a news conference during which he asserted that he had invested his own resources, had recruited other investors, and was not fronting for anyone.
Sonny also argued that his low-fare airline venture would do well and survive. Sonny came across as an affable man with a fantastic imagination and gilded dreams, a selfless patriot who was willing to risk his own resources to operate a low-cost airline in a high-cost environment that had drained the cash and destroyed the dreams of others who seemingly possessed greater business acumen than he brought to the table. But the news conference only had the effect of intensifying the criticisms and heightening the suspicions directed at Sonny.
So when media headlines unexpectedly screamed that Sonny has been sued by his former employer for allegedly defrauding it of millions of US dollars to fund his EZjet venture, a sense of vindication overcame the many skeptics who have never believed Sonny’s claim that EZjet has been made possible by his own money. And that sense of vindication became an article of faith when Sonny himself alleged that his employer’s money was in fact invested in EZjet by senior management of his employer.
A U.S. court will ultimately decide who is telling the truth, but I offer readers some information on one of Sonny’s companies at the centre of the lawsuit. I also offer some information on EZjet’s application to become a scheduled carrier, as well as information on flights that EZjet has plans to cancel between October of 2012 and May of 2013.
Sonny’s former employer has alleged that Payserv Tax Inc. is one of the two companies through which Sonny funneled the millions he allegedly stole. Sonny registered Payserv Tax Inc. on 9/3/10, listing himself as the sole officer, registered agent, and incorporator and asking that 9/1/10 be granted as the corporation’s effective date of incorporation.
When Payserv filed its 2011 Annual Report, Rohan Persaud was added as a director but Sonny retained all of his prior roles. On March 28 of 2012, Payserv made a new filing that removed Sonny from all of his roles and listed Rohan Persaud as the sole officer and new registered agent. So Sonny was no longer an officer or registered agent of Payserv effective 3/28/12. But was he an employee? I guess that time will reveal the answer to this question.
Was money actually transferred from Payserv to EZjet in August and September of 2012? Sonny’s employer claims that US$5.4 million went to EZjet in those two months. But why did EZjet need a large infusion of cash in August and September? Perhaps an application on file with the United States Department of Transportation may provide the answer(s) to this question.
The Federal Register (Vol.77, No. 190) of October 1, 2012 reports that EZjet has filed an application requesting permission to operate as a scheduled airline between the U.S. and Guyana. A similar application (likely the same one), filed under OST-2012-0152, requested permission for EZjet to begin operating its scheduled service from as early as September 27th, 2012. So EZjet has made moves to go from a charter airline to a scheduled airline, an operation that probably requires much more money than a charter service.
It is also worth noting that on 9/25/12, EZjet informed the U.S. Department of Transportation that it will cancel twenty-six (26) return flights it has arranged with its charter carrier Swift Air, Inc for some days between October of 2012 and May of 2013. Those flights are from JFK-GEO-JFK and were/are scheduled for 10/7, 14, 21, 28; 11/04, 11/11, 11/18, 11/25; 12/02, 12/9; 1/20, 1/27; 2/03, 2/10, 2/17, 2/24; 3/03, 3/10, 3/17; 4/14, 4/21, 4/28; and 5/5, 5/12, 5/19, and 5/26. EZjet has promised that affected passengers will be placed on alternative flights or issued full refunds. It is interesting to note that EZjet is required by U.S. law to inform the U.S. government of all intended cancellations, which then become public record.
Perhaps a similar requirement and action by the Guyana government would mimimize the number of customers that are affected when charter carriers like EZjet eventually go out of business.
As we await the court’s decision on the lawsuit against Sonny, I have a feeling that Sonny Ramdeo and his EZjet venture are about to end their short flight into infamy.

Lionel Lowe

EZ Jet boss Sonny Ramdeo accused of stealing US$5.4M & used it to open his low cost carrier

October 25, 2012 1 comment

OCTOBER 25, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS

… transferred money to airline from hospital chain – court records

WEST PALM BEACH (Court House News Service) – A hospital chain claims in court that its payroll manager and his two companies embezzled US$5.4 million from it.
Promise Healthcare and 11 of its hospitals sued Sonny Ramdeo, PayServ Tax and Ez-Jet GT, in Palm Beach County Court. It claims it hired Ramdeo eight years ago to manage payroll for its 3,500 employees in its hospitals nationwide.
Promise accuses, “Sonny Ramdeo, and his companies (of) stealing over five million dollars from Promise through a sophisticated scheme of fraud and deception. Specifically, Ramdeo incorporated a company called ‘PayServ Tax Inc.’ and deceived Promise’s senior management into believing that PayServ was a legitimate payroll tax processing company affiliated with the nationally known payroll processing company, Ceridian.

Promise Healthcare and 11 of its hospitals have sued Sonny Ramdeo, PayServ Tax and Ez-Jet for a US$5.4M embezzlement.
“Based on this lie, he deceived Promise into transferring millions of dollars to PayServ Tax Inc. and diverted over five million dollars of Promise’s money to himself and his companies,” the complaint states.
Ceridian is not a party to the complaint.
”Around October 2010, Ramdeo incorporated PayServ,” the complaint states. “Thereafter, through a sophisticated fraud including false representations, fabricated documents and e-mails, and a fictitious website, Ramdeo deceived Promise’s senior management into believing that Promise’s payroll taxes were being received, processed, and paid by Ceridian (a global payroll services company that Promise had used for years).
Instead, Ramdeo received Promise’s money allocated for payroll taxes through his own company, PayServ, so that he could steal millions of dollars from Promise along the way. Upon information and belief, he did this by forging signatures on standing transfer orders that purported to authorize Promise’s bank to debit funds from Promise’s account for transfer to PayServ’s account at PNC Bank. …
”Significantly, in the past two months alone, Ramdeo stole US$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.
”Upon information and belief, since creating PayServ, Ramdeo has been knowingly and intentionally misstating the amount of payroll taxes actually due by Promise and/or misstating the amount of payroll taxes actually transferred to government agencies and stealing the excess funds (in a sum that exceeds US$5,000,000).
“Ramdeo effected this fraud through a sophisticated scheme of fraud that deceived not only Promise’s senior management, but also its auditors. This is because Ramdeo not only fabricated documents, but also emails and websites to deceive Promise and its auditors into believing that Ceridian was receiving and processing Promise’s payroll taxes.
For example, when Promise’s senior management requested additional information from Ramdeo regarding the Ceridian bank account where payroll taxes were being deposited, Ramdeo provided Promise’s senior management with a document – on Ceridian letterhead – which purported to identify ‘the Payroll Trust Account information in which Promise Healthcare’s taxes are being collected into and disbursed out of.’ Ramdeo even fabricated an e-mail to himself from a purported Ken Taylor of Paytax so that it would appear as if he had received the Paytax letter from a third party.
However, like Ramdeo’s other representations, the PayTax Letter and the e-mail from a purported Ken Taylor were fraudulent. They were fabricated by Ramdeo in response to Promise’s request for additional information about the payroll tax account.
”The PayTax Letter and email were only one part of Ramdeo’s scheme. For example, upon information and belief, Ramdeo also purchased the domain name Pay-tax.com and directed that Internet address to link directly to Ceridian’s website so that anyone investigating Pay-tax.com would be deceived into thinking that they were dealing with Ceridian.” (Citations to exhibits omitted; parentheses in complaint.)
The hospitals seek damages for fraud, unjust enrichment, conversion, and civil theft and imposition of a constructive trust.
They are represented by Matthew Triggs, with Proskauer Rose, of Boca Raton.
EZjet started flying to Guyana on December 16, 2011, but competitors in the industry questioned the source of financing of the company.
It was revealed that Ramdeo had a US$348,000 mortgage on his Fort Lauderdale home.
In early March, Ramdeo flew in several of his executives to deny that EZjet has links to former President Bharrat Jagdeo and his businessman friend, Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop.
According to Ramdeo, his operating licence in Guyana was granted after an economic study was done which justified the investment. The company stood in the line and waited its turn and was granted no favors, it was said.
The company was granted permission and started selling tickets in late November. Ramdeo said he used part of his mortgage to fund the startup of the company to the tune of US$1.5M ($300M).
In the process, the former investment banker said he had to utilise the proceeds from his investments funds, stock options from the bank where he worked and his 401K, a retirement savings account.
The US1.5M was used to pay security deposits, bonds, for the aircraft, he said.
Regarding having a mortgage on his Florida home which, taking a risk to invest such a hefty sum on what is considered one of the riskiest businesses in the world, Ramdeo was of the opinion that it had no bearing.
“…And if you truly believe in a business that you can make work when you have done enough homework and research, then you can mitigate the risks that are out there. It is a worthwhile investment. Sure there are investors that take those measures (and) those that don’t.”
“The fact that I have a US$348,000 mortgage has no bearings whatsoever on a business idea. The fact that I did not pay off my mortgage tends to lend to the fact of what if I do pay off my mortgage, take the money and pay it off and then what?”

EZjet’s performance is disgraceful

March 22, 2012 Leave a comment

By STABROEK STAFF  |  56 COMMENTS  |  LETTERS | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21, 2012

Dear Editor,

In finalizing my travel arrangements to New York, USA to complete my February 2012 New York State Bar Examination, I foolishly opted to give EZjet a try. What a mistake this turned out to be. This will be the first, of a series of articles, written for the benefit of my fellow Guyanese brothers and sisters to put them on notice of the disgraceful business practices of EZjet Air.

The time had finally come, or so I thought, that Guyanese could finally choose an airline with reasonable airfare rates. Guyanese, for as long as I can remember, have been paying ridiculous fares due to the monopolies and/or a lack of a competition from other respectable airlines. I was so happy for my Guyanese brothers and sisters. EZjet had finally answered Guyana’s long cry for affordable fares—or so I thought.

There are no hidden or added on fees, the airfares really are reasonably priced in comparison to other airlines. The problem arises however, not due to airfares, but rather, the disgraceful and unprofessional manner through which EZjet operates and treats its Guyanese passengers. Take a look at the facts. During EZjet’s relatively short tenure it has managed to cancel many of its flights from their originally scheduled dates and times. This only sets the stage for describing how EZjet engages in disgraceful business practices.

Far beyond merely cancelling and rescheduling its flights, EZjet, unlike any and all reputable, professional airlines, does not put its passengers on any reasonable notice of its intention to cancel its flights. Rather, as myself, my mother, and countless others have learned, EZjet lets you come to the airport at your scheduled time, checks your baggage in, takes your luggage from your possession to be placed on the airline, makes you go through security checkpoints for boarding and then, after on average of six to ten hours of making you wait, without informing you of the possibility of flight cancellation, abruptly and suddenly cancels the flight. What is even more disgraceful is that evidence indicates that EZjet representatives in fact know that the flight will be cancelled at the time they are checking in their passengers.

Funny enough, after cancelling the flight 6-10 hours after check in, any and all EZjet representatives vacate the airport and are otherwise totally and wholly unavailable to speak to its disgruntled passengers. They are not available whatsoever, just ask the passengers on the cancelled flight of March 4, 2012, rescheduled for March 5, 2012, from JFK to Guyana.

This is especially concerning. How could a newly formed airline treat us Guyanese like animals? We deserve, as all other passengers around the world enjoy, the same professionalism and the same respect given to all such others. What makes us Guyanese deserve to be treated with such disregard, what makes us undeserving of basic human decency from the airline we choose? Do we not deserve to be notified so we do not undergo unnecessary costs and expenses, in terms of money, time, and effort?

To make matters even worse, after the flight is cancelled, EZjet must now return to its passengers their luggage. Even this process is laughable and disgraceful. I watched, observed and even relayed my concern to EZjet officials as I watched their luggage handlers and carriers recklessly, wantonly and grossly negligently toss luggage onto conveyor belts as if each piece of luggage was worthless. When the luggage comes around the conveyor belts, us Guyanese passengers are restricted to a certain zone, not even having the ability to go less than 50 feet outside such zone to purchase a luggage cart to move our luggage. We are even observed by Police and Customs officials who refuse to assist us in conveniently removing our luggage, which was caused by EZjet’s abrupt and sudden cancellation of its flight 8 hours after checking us in.

As I mentioned before, this is just the first of several articles I will write to highlight EZjet Air’s disgraceful and shameful business practices. My fellow Guyanese brothers and sisters, although I know many of you will be tempted, and justifiably so, to try out EZjet, in order to save some money, let this article serve as a warning of what is to be anticipated. My abovementioned observations are not limited to one single instance, but rather, have occurred several times. I pray for a time when my fellow Guyanese can enjoy reasonable air-fare rates, especially since much of our families are abroad, but this cannot be at the expense of our human decency. I prefer to pay Caribbean Airlines the additional US $250-300.

EZjet will fly no more, very soon (my estimate: 3-6 months tops), and I will be there the day it happens to wave goodbye.  Shame on you EZjet, we deserve better.

Yours faithfully,
Cheddi Berret Jagan II, Esq.

Editor’s note: A copy of this letter has been sent to EZjet for any comment it may wish to make.