Pastor defends Joel Ghansham in flight spat

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 July 2023, 20:14 by Denis Chabrol

Joel Ghansham

An American pastor has come out in defence of Guyanese Indian cultural activist, Joel Ghansham, who apparently angered an American Airlines cabin attendant by describing him as a “waiter” and forced the Guyana-bound flight to return to the United States.

“In my evaluation Mr. Ghansham was discriminated against due to his alternative lifestyle, manner of dress, and characteristics,” Pastor Brian E. Jenkins said on his Facebook page.

Mr Jenkins was among hundreds of passengers aboard flight AA 2557 who were returned to the John F. Kennedy Airport on January 18, 2023  as a result of a “disruptive customer”  as “safety and security are our top priorities.” Ghansham had admitted to calling a cabin attendant, who had refused to place his baggage in the overhead locker, a “waiter”.

Pastor Jenkins, who is the Executive Director of Chosen 300 Ministries, Inc; said he concluded that Ghansham was the victim of discrimination based on an interview with him, a review of articles published about the incident and his personal observation of what had transpired.  “I would also like to note I was sitting on the isle on the opposite side of Mr. Ghansham just 10 rows back. There was no commotion, Mr Ghansham never got out of his seat nor did I notice him hollering, raising his voice or appearing threatening at any time,” said Mr Jenkins.

The Pastor related that Ghansham was harassed during the flight with the refusal of service and a later taunting. It is unclear whether Pastor Jenkins had heard or seen the interaction between Mr Ghansham and the cabin attendant or he was relying largely on the Indian cultural activist’s account.

Pastor Jenkins described Ghansham’s reaction to the flight attendant’s sarcastic enquiry whether the passenger had wanted something to drink as “justifiable frustration” and cautioned that he might have described that airline’s employee in much more unflattering terms.  “Out of justifiable frustration, Mr Ghansham responded with identifying the flight attendant as a “waiter”. If it was me I would have called him a lot worse. Mr. Ghansham also indicated his distrust with him serving him due to the previous interactions,” Mr Jenkins said.

The Pastor said during the second departure, a passenger’s phone rang, causing a female cabin attendant to behave in an unprofessional manner, even threatening that the flight would return like the previous day. “She indicated that if we don’t want this flight to be turned around like yesterday to turn our phones off. This was so inappropriate and very discouraging to passengers who at this point had gone through 24 hours of airline hell,” he said.

As a result of your horrific service, unprofessionalism and lack of concern for your customers I am requesting that the entire flight be refunded their round-trip tickets as well as any expenses they incurred. I am forwarding this information to the FAA as well as my attorney for inquiry of a class action lawsuit against the airline if these demands are not met.

The Pastor said he has since demanded a full refund and has asked his lawyer whether a class action lawsuit could be filed against American Airlines. He has since asked the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and his lawyer whether the entire flight could be refunded their round-trip airfares as well as any other costs they had incurred.

American Airlines has since written all of the passengers, including Ghansham, apologising for the disruption and providing 10,000 bonus miles. No mention was made about the incident.