By Kola Johnson
IF you want to avoid head and heart ache, and want to live long, please, stay away from flying AIR NIGERIA. And if Nigeria wants to better its image, it had better issued the strongest warning to owners of the airline, that is purportedly the successor to the national carrier, Nigeria Airways. It is bad enough that the airline that bears the name of the country is already renowned along the West Coast as the most unreliable, customer unfriendly, incompetent and irresponsible.
Dateline: Accra, Saturday May 19.
The flight to Lagos was scheduled to depart Kotoka Airport at 7.35am, which means anyone billed to travel with it must leave his/her residence from as early as 5am, obviously foregoing your breakfast.
So, there was already a queue by 6am when I joined the line. At the check-in, the clerk whispered to every passenger that the flight is delayed by three hours!!! This should have served as a warning for anyone who could afford it to run off and grab ticket of another airline – Arik or Aero – that is if you can vouch-safe that such will be responsible.
“All na same, yeye people, no be Nigerian airlines. Nonsense,” volunteered one of the passengers, irritation deeply etched on his face.
Three hours after at 9.30, there was no sign the aircraft that had come in from Dakar would be ready for boarding!!!
And this is where irresponsibility became a toga for the airline that appropriate Nigeria’s patrimony in its name; and perhaps bears testimony of everything that is wrong with the country that likes to delude itself as the giant of whatever!!!
The airline staff, who had been checking the boarding passes and admitting them to the waiting area, suddenly disappeared! No one to offer any explanation!!!
Of course, grumbling began, first as murmurs then gradually ballooned to protestations. An Asian fellow, perhaps Pakistani, screamed: “What is wrong”; I can’t take it“. With that he stormed off to the table where the airline staff had checked the boarding pass. Alas, none of the three staff was in sight except a worker of the Kotoka airport, quite a voluptuous sight interesting to look at – but of no help.
Rather, she muttered, “oh, that is what they do, this Air Nigeria people.’ Prodded, she added: “always their passengers come here to fight; everyday. They are not serious“.
To the Nigerians within earshot, that damning revelations drew uncomfortable silences even as they exchanged embarrassing looks. The Asian fellow, joined by his fellow countryman, decided to lead a protest to the airline’s office within the airport. Two Ghanaians joined them; interestingly no Nigerian was in the brewing ‘Spring’!
Sure, the country-folks have grown used to accepting impunity and disrespect from not only their rascal politicians, but even from private enterprises, who charged them exorbitantly for services ill-rendered or not rendered.
WHILE the protest team was away, Nigerians engaged in what they have come to know how to do best – grumbling, cursing, helplessly mouthing and ‘forming’:
“These people are very useless“, volunteered a fellow who looked like a company executive in his suit. “Na so dem deh always do, very lousy“, I retorted. ‘ It was same endless delay when I left for Dakar last Sunday.”
Said another exasperated fellow: “All the time o; last Thursday, na so dem delay us for four hours; and they had no courtesy of even coming to explain to us why we were delayed. The staff would just vanish.“
“We were delayed for seven hours from Monrovia on Wednesday, imagine. And they offered no lunch, or even common water. In fact, they told us nothing,” yet another fellow in a tribute-to-ojukwu tee-shirt said.
“Na Nigeria thing now; everything must look disorganised and dishonest,” said a lady in green pant.
“Who owns the airline sef, na government?” asked a lady who said she is half-Ghanaian and half-Nigerian.
“It is one of the ‘government magic’; they carry our national airline give to one funny fellow, who nobody knows how he made his money“, said an obviously angry young man.
“It is owned by a fellow called Jimoh Ibrahim, he is one of those buying up everything in the country without knowing what to do with them“, I declared.
“Corruption will kill that country; from top to bottom, they are all corrupt; stealing and looting our national wealth“, offered the fellow who had responded to the query from the half-Nigerian lady.
The lady: “Nigeria has no shame, oh God”
“Not only are we shameless. We have no decorum; no sense of service; no respect for anything. Imagine how we are disgracing ourselves before foreigners,” I spat, referring to the Asians who led the protest.
The comments continued in torrents.
SOON, the Spring (Asian-led protesters) team returned to give an even more hope dashing report.
“They say it will now be 11am, they have no fuel!”
“Even in Ghana“, I exclaimed amidst a sharp rise of loud sighs and more curses.
“I thought it is only in Nigeria that aircraft get stranded because of lack of aviation fuel; na wa o“. That was me again.
“Don’t be surprised the airline may not have money to pay for aviation fuel; or they may be owing; is it not a Nigerian that owned it? Useless people with bad business sense,” said a woman who had been hissing all along.
“Well, if you want to live long or avoid heartache just avoid this lousy airline. Imagine they have ruined the whole day for me,” I uttered the final verdict.
“I will never patronise these nonsense people again“, said the suit-clad man. “See Aero left early and on time today; I regret not buying their ticket. Even Arik seems to have repented from their bad ways. They left at 8.05, no delay. They used to be very bad with timing too.
We were embarked at about 11.20am.
Inside the cabin was this horrifying smell, ostensibly because the crew had not bothered to clear the wastes and remnants of consumptions from passengers that came in from Dakar and disembarked in Accra.
That was when it dawned on me that the poor folks from Dakar had been sitting in the smelly, hot cabin from 9am to the time we embarked at 11.30pm. A whole two hours inside that dingy hole of gross incompetence and damned impunity.
I also recalled that on May 13 when I had set out to Dakar, we had also been delayed for near three hours at the Lagos airport; and when we got to Accra, we spent over an hour, just sitting in the cabin on the tarmac; and another hour plus at Banjul, finally making Dakar at 3am – for a flight that ought to have taken off at 7.40pm and arrive Dakar at about 12.30am.
Needless to say that I missed my reservation at Hotel Shockman and had to stay the rest of the morning – 3am-9am in the mosquito-infested bar of the hotel – it was at 9am that I was eventually checked in into a room that was not even of the type that I had pre-booked.
See why I say, anyone who wants to live long or avoid head/heart ache should avoid Air Nigeria; not on your life!!!!
THE aircraft eventually took off at 11.50am. When the aircraft eventually landed and the crew member thanked the passenger for their patience and declared ‘we welcome you on board on your next trip’, it was a stream of loud ‘God Forbid’; “I reject it in Jesus’ name’; ‘you are not my portion’ etc that greeted his gutless offer.
Johnson is a writer based in Lagos.