News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Nov. 16, 2012: Another low-cost carrier to Guyana, EZjet, has also been forced to can its services to the South American country amidst the backdrop of a suspension of service by the U.S. Department of Transport and allegations of embezzlement by the company’s founder and chief executive officer.
EZjet began flying to the South American nation earlier this year and flew the New York to Guyana route before expanding to New York to Toronto. It fast became a welcomed alternative to pricey flights on Delta Airlines and Caribbean Airlines, the only two other carriers that serve the Guyana market from North America.
The sudden suspension of the EZjet service has left dozens of paid travelers on the Toronto and New York routes out in the cold and the Guyana government scrambling to get Caribbean Airlines to absorb the carrier’s passengers.
The EZjet website now connects to a press release that states that it has “suspended its operations due to financial hardship created by its vendors and agents owing EZJet as well as some mismanagement.” On its Facebook page, the company asks for “cooperation of our customers” and urged them to fill out a form at https://www.facebook.com/ezjetinc/app_141149985924076 for refunds.
“Our phones lines are overwhelmed, emails are numerous and we cannot possibly answer every single email, or phone that comes in. We are making every attempt to get passengers their funds. We ask customers to use our online form. We will contact you with the details of your refunds once we get to your request,” states the posting. “Continuing to post allegations, threats, fabrications and misrepresentations in the media does not help expedite this situation. The refund process can take as long as 21 days depending if you booked through an agency and the monies has not been turned over to EZjet. We thank you for your patience and cooperation.”
The company has insisted it has not “shut down” but explained instead it was forced to cancel all flights because Swift Air , which owns and operates the aircraft they lease, took off without any notification and left EZjet without a carrier.
The company said Swift Air owes EZjet over US$630,000 in open 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 says it has consistently asked Swift Air to pay these invoices as the funds were needed to pay for EZjet’s continued operations but Swift Air has not paid the invoices nor has it received a response to the dispute relating to the notice of cancellation.
Then on Friday November 2 and Saturday November 3, Swift Air abandoned EZjet’s passengers at the JFK airport and then in Georgetown to take another job of flying the Boston Celtics basketball team within the United States, using EZjet’s fuel and airport services, according to the statement. No advance notification was provided to EZjet, the company said, and it could do very little to avoid this action of Swift Air.
The company also said that on Wednesday, November 7, Swift Air also off loaded already onboard passengers at Port-of-Spain, and then stranded JKF-bound passengers in Georgetown, in order to fly their empty aircraft to Buffalo, New York, again utilizing EZjet’s fuel and airport services to do so. After the aircraft took off, Swift Air contacted the US DOT and TICO (in Canada) and notified that they intend to stop flying. No advance notification was provided to EZjet, a statement said.
Then on Thursday November 8, the DOT delivered to EZjet an email indicating that “EZJet Air has failed to act consistently with the requirements of 14 CFR Part 380. In the circumstances presented, we are requiring that EZJet Air Service Express must immediately cease advertising and operating flights filed under PC 12 119.”
EZjet claims the DOT issued the email “after receiving false and misleading information from Swift Air” and that “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 says it has written to the DOT stating the facts and challenging Swift Air and is currently awaiting a reply.
In Canada, Ontario regulators who had insisted on hefty guarantees from EzJet before allowing the company to operate in Canada, have now frozen the company’s assets there along with its operating permit.
EZJet follows the trail of former national carrier, New Age Air Services, Guyana Air 2002, Guyana Airways and Universal Airlines, which all went belly up. North American airlines, which flew to Guyana for many years, pulled out to serve certain U.S. government agencies.
The suspension comes as a hospital chain in Florida claims in court that its payroll manager and EZjet’s CEO, Sonny Ramdeo, embezzled $5.4 million from it.
Promise Healthcare and 11 of its hospitals sued Ramdeo and his two companies, PayServ Tax and Ez-Jet GT, in Palm Beach County Court, claiming it hired Ramdeo 8 years ago to manage payroll for its 3,500 employees in its hospitals nationwide but Ramdeo, and his companies stole over five million dollars from Promise through a sophisticated scheme of fraud and deception.
Specifically, they claim 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. Based on this lie, Promise claims in the lawsuit that he deceived them 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 hospitals seek damages for fraud, unjust enrichment, conversion, and civil theft and imposition of a constructive trust.
Ramdeo for his part has said in a press release posted to the carrier’s Facebook page that “Since my former bosses are themselves in court over diversion of over $550 million dollars of company funds, they elected to claim ignorance and innocence when it came to coming clean about the investment.”