By Kate Henshaw-Nuttal
Okada Air, Sosoliso Air line, Kabo Air, ADC Airlines, Bellview Airlines, Nigerian Airways; these were just a few of our local carriers in years past.
In my view, Bellview Airlines was the leader of all these airlines. I remember not a few passengers being left behind for arriving even a minute after takeoff time. They would see their supposed flight takeoff into the skies right before their very eyes! They paid a price for their tardiness. It was quite a statement. No excuses were taken. You were either on time or left behind!
Now we have quite a plethora of Airlines in Nigeria, all ripping off the passenger and not offering even the basic service of departing on time. I do not know how many times I have heard over the speakers “due to operational reasons flight dg 123 has been delayed or cancelled”.
I recall a few months ago sitting in an airport for about eight hours before I could depart to my destination. I was helpless as to what to do. I slept, woke up, had lunch and slept off again. Who even operates the PA system? One can hardly hear what they were saying. They sounded either like a sleepy child reluctant to get out of bed for school or like a drunk and most times the pronunciations were appalling. This is the state we now find ourselves and I dare say, we take it on the chin and we sit there as the only other option is to go by road and we all know that story, don’t we? Why are we short-changed at every turn? You pay full fares for a flight and then you were asked to buy your own snacks?
Abroad, Easy Jet does so because their fares are cheap and so they get the volume of passengers and then make them pay for food, drinks and headset should they choose to watch a film and by so doing still make their money without the passenger feeling cheated. Here do we care? Who is the passenger to dare complain about services? You might even get arrested for daring to complain or be beaten up in the process like a friend of mine, Abubakar. Does the passenger even know his or her rights? I do know that when I pay for something, I get the exact thing I paid for, nothing less.
Now there is a charge called the Passenger Service Charge. I laughed when I saw it the last time I travelled. What service and why charge me after I have paid my fare? It’s beggars belief. Our airports are like ancient store houses; even the ‘new’ MM2 has lost its look already.
I wish I could paste pictures here, I walked into the toilet once and the stench was like a pit latrine and by the time I was done, I could not find where to flush the toilet as there was a hole in the wall in place of the flushing system! Appalling! We kept grumbling and not taking a stand.
I remember a particular airline would land and then drop passengers’ baggage outside and we would rush out, struggle with each other to each pick up our bags. To them they had brought us to our destination and that was that. We give excuses for inept and insensitive people who are supposed to know their jobs but do not perform them. I remember landing at the International airport from Nairobi and we could not access the immigration hall as the door was locked and the person who was to have opened it was nowhere to be seen. We waited for at least 15mins before he leisurely strolled down and when accosted by me, a fellow passenger told me to calm down that at least he still came! What do you say to that? No wonder we do not get any response from those who are supposed to serve us as we always made up excuses for them.
We have a new Aviation Minister, and the first assignment is that we are slammed with an over 60 percent hike in fares, never mind that the flight ticket is more expensive than the yet to be implemented minimum wage in some states.. I shudder to think when we will take our destiny in our own hands, when we will have Ministers and Leaders who will truly serve us collectively rather than the recorded successes of a few and the majority acting like they do not care nor give a damn.
It was however a joy to behold and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised that on my way to Port Harcourt last month, the flight I boarded, took off on time with good service and it was only 5 minutes late on the return journey. The airline was Dana Air. I will keep an eagle eye out for erring airlines and will criticise bad service where it is given. Sort of a name and shame thing and hopefully things will change. God helps those who help themselves.