The Argyle International Airport (AIA) says its investigation so far has not found any evidence of its workers stealing items from travellers’ bags, as several persons have claimed.
Glender Francois, manager of Customer Service and Marketing/Public Relations at AIA told the media on Monday that between May 15 and July 20, 2017, the airport, which began operating on Feb. 14, received 52 documented complaints about items missing from bags.
Of these claims, 22 have been investigated, while investigations into 30 of them are pending, because of insufficient information, no response from persons to gain more information or are still under investigation.
Speaking on Monday during a media tour of the airport, Hadley Bourne, chief executive officer of AIA, said that there has been no evidence of airport staff stealing items from passengers’ bags.
“To date, no. I never say never, but what I always say so far to date, because we may find some that are substantiated, but so far to date, none,” Bourne said in response to a question.
He, however, said there is no way for the members of the public or passengers to independently verify the results of the investigations without compromising security at the airport.
“I would want that we are trusted in that regard. The investigation is not done at a level of rank and file. The investigation within the authority is done at a very high level and I would assure you that those persons tasked with carrying out these investigations are of high moral and equitable standing.”
He admitted that it is a case of the AIA investigating the AIA — like police investigating police — and the public takes their word for it.
“Well you may look at it that way but it is difficult to have an independent investigation unless an additional regulator who could have that access to the inside information to provide the investigating protocols per se.”
Bourne, however, said he was not disputing that theft at airports by airport staff is a reality.
“We compile a report, we do certain things when we compile a report. We try to make it as comprehensive as possible, we take snaps from the CCTV, down to the minutes, second, etc. and we try to do a comprehensive report.”
He said it might be difficult for the airport to accommodate an individual who wants to verify the airport’s conclusions after an investigation.
“For the individual, it may be difficult, a reputable third party institution associated with that type of activity may be possible, but trust me on this one; take our word for it.
“Yes, you may say it is the police investigating the police but even if you have a complaint against the police, the police still investigate the police. But you have a different level of police that you give a higher authority or holding to investigate the police.”
He said that security personnel at the airport took personal offence at the claims that they are stealing items from passengers’ checked luggage.
“… a lot of security personnel took the reports kind of seriously and personally. Most of them even wanted to go and respond on Facebook but we said that’s not necessarily the right means or the way to go about it.
“Because they are Vincentians and like us, they took it personally. The various comments that were heard, they were being called robbers and thieves, but they are Vincentians and to them, they felt extremely hurt and that being said, we still have, we are being inundated daily with applications for the security services. And I am not saying just for security.”
The chief executive said that AIA’s no-tolerance for delinquency at the airport applies across the board.
“An airport is a service provider and any member of staff who you would entrust in confidence, etc. to provide a service, and pilfering or stealing would be part of breaking that trust, will be dealt with severely,” he said.