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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Monday, May 12, 2008

My British Airways two pence

Watching British Airway's reaction to the ongoing fiasco brings to mind Marie Antoinette's famed let them eat cake comment on being told that her citizens were starving, getting desperate and restive. Very much in line with my own perception of the airline's Nigeria, nay general operations: Archaic, out of touch, Neanderthal, disconnected, shabby, discourteous, unjustifiably superior and a real dinosaur.
I have waited in vain to see the airline wake up and manage the public relations disaster in a proactive way but the sluggish, rather strained "gba ma pa mi" (morsel throwing) sulky reaction is not only painful to watch, it is galling and indicative of complete lack of interest in our market or perhaps an assurance of untouchability.

I have had so some bad experiences with British Airways thus I avoid them like a plague usually taking convoluted routes to destinations not properly serviced by other airlines. Last year I was forced to fly BA as I couldn't get a seat on any other airline for an impromptu, time bound trip to Washington. As I had not flown with them in a while, I forgot how bad they could be. I flew 1st class but the experience was like being kicked in the teeth with a padded boot. Now I like to think I am one of those people who have learned to talk to non Nigerians in a way they will find non threatening (yes Nigerians can be irritatingly abrasive but it is also true that the world prefers its Negroid of gene, either foolishly smiley or liver curdling subservient in manner) but I still found the response of cabin crew curt and unhelpful, rude (I don't need them to be friendly, I have my own friends) and unprofessional. The planes, even the ones to and from DC were shabby, the sleeper facilities like an old weary pseudo grandee hotel, and the food was unimaginative and tasted suspiciously like braised plastic. There were no undue extras like adequate supplies of fruits for 1st class passengers so l ask what do people in the economy get, oh yes they get throw off the plane for talking back to cabin crew. The lounge staffs at Heathrow were unhelpful and barely courteous and one of the lounges is like a trounced up diner anyways. At the end, it took 4 days to get my luggage in Lagos after I threatened fire and brimstone.

What I noticed was that majority of the people in that 1st class cabin with me were Nigerian old money" (e ma tan ra yin je, fool yourselves), government officials and an unquestionable number of insufferably mealy brained (you should have heard their conversations, my dad this, my dad that from grown up young men, one of whom actually said to me "you are in the media, you must know my dad" to which l replied, "no I do not know your dad, what important thing has he done lately and you, what do you do"? His father is currently indicted in one of the ongoing energy probes) children of such in laughably misinterpreted designer togs returning from expensive schools. It occurred to me then and there that British airways is perhaps sustained by a class that is used to treating people badly and is thus blind to being treated just as badly as long as it remains convinced it is of a better class. You see them living in multi million dollar homes without running water in over priced neighbourhoods that require a canoe to access.

It is perhaps this same class and its cohorts that is unaware (or uncaring) that the world is looking for new emerging markets beside China and India and that we can thus attract stiffer, better competition to airlines like British Airways and certain others (SAA is on this list) into our market, the same that does not realize that freeing people frees you. That social and political reforms alongside economic reforms and effective educational reengineering builds better societies which creates wealth across board and will happily make you even bigger and bloated and hence blissfully superior and oblivious to your own ridiculousness (translate that to bourgeois nirvana) but allows the rest of us get on with the business of living and working well.

British Airways and any other airways or entity will continue to treat us badly as long as we permit it. What will the Nigerian government do (not say but DO) about the Nigerian people's outrage at the treatment of Nigerians on that flight and many others? That is the koko.


'Yar Mama said...

Whatever we (the economy class customers) decide to do, BA can undermine it instantly by starting a summer bananza of, say N10,000 return to London. I really dont have faith in my peoples ability to sustain a boycott. The onus therefore rests squarely on the shoulders of Government and of course we know how these things always play out.

Anonymous said...

you write remarkably well :) granted, i have to pull up dictionary.com in a separate tab most times, but it has done amazing things for my WordQ, lol.

if this BA situation is treated in the same manner with which we treat most things (all talk, no action), it will suffer the same untimely death as other initiatives before it. simple.


Anonymous said...

Gosh, Funmi, I love you patapata. This piece says it all, it's obvious the blame goes both ways. Why should BA bother to smarten up their facilities or their staff's attitude if they're dealing with mealy-mouthed, loud and arrogant passengers who have little respect for in-flight property or propriety for that matter? What pressures are bought to bear on BA when Nija big kahunas pay atrocious amounts for first class tickets yet happily accept to be treated with indignities by attendants who can hardly hide the fact that they hold those passengers in disdain? Just to say "I flew BA"? Nonsense.

No be their fault at all, BA knows that our hands are tied, boycott or not, their routes to Nija are guaranteed cash cows. They'll only start to fear the day the Nigerian traveller discovers discipline, our airport facilities become reliable, and our govt less corrupt at which point we'll become a more attractive target for other competitors.
Until then all I can say is good luck with the boycott.

Deola said...

Very well spoken.. This unfair treatment has been going on forever and it seems like every complain and petition fell on deaf ear and will keep falling untill the so called "old money" begin to do something about it... I just recently had a horrible experience with them as well and I mean down right horrible... Customer service is NOTHING to write home about and I believe once that see your last name, you get the crappest response from them... It's about time something is done!!!!

Tope said...

Thank you Funmi, I enjoyed your article on BA. I visited Nigeria in March and flew BA, my experience was horrible!!! Let me just say I have decided to drive 90 minutes to another airport in the future so that I can have better choices instead of using the closest airport to me in Baltimore (only serviced by BA). The check in attendants had the guts to tell me that they oversold higher classes and had therefore down graded my ticket to economy class, when I first started protesting, they went ahead to inform me that I was not the only one selected for such treatment, that they had a right to oversell and randomly choose to down grade...bla bla bla. I made such a scene that eventually I was given a much better seat in the class I originally paid for.
It is such a shame that BA comes to Nigeria and fills their large boeing 747 plane every night and still forgets where there money is coming from. I am not sure the govt. can or will do something, what Nigerians need to do is to choose other airlines and let BA hear it loud and clear that its unacceptable to take our money and then spit in our faces.

Chxta said...

Great article. Nothing more to add really...

OmoIbadan said...

I want to reply to 'Yar mama, if BA decides to do summer Bonanazas, I say we should fly them...at 10000 naira, we have achieved the aim of the boycott "make them lose revenue"...when u get forced to drop from 100K to 10K...then something is moving in ur knickers.

Anonymous said...

It is great to see Nigerians speaking out on an issue like this. The guys on Nigeriavillagesquare really have organized themselves by collecting signatures for the petition, sending out press releases, demnstrating at the British High Commission in Lagos today, organising live radio broadcasts and printing T-Shirts advertising the boycott.

For too long Nigerians inability to organise has made them the butt of unfair treatment from bullies (both internal and external). I hope BA gets the message loud and clear that they cannot accept Nigerians money and disrespect them. BA has a choice of shutting down its cash cow route (Lagos-London) if they don't like Nigerians. Nuff said.

Naapali said...

Well said and I could not agree more. We have to demand more of ourselves and our leaders. Hopefully some day soon our entrepreneurs will start an airline that will be good and profitable. Richard Branson has proven that it can be done.

The Last King Of Scotland said...

what happened to the mantra, the customer is always right? if B.A. cannot treat its first class passengers with proper care and premium attention the future is indeed bleak for the rest of us. i stopped flying them over 2 years back due to their incessant inefficiency

tps360 said...

Even if Nigerians do not know why it happened, I believe their “leaders” know. The British Police, the management and crew of the airline also know why they treated 136 Nigerian passengers in such manner. Of course such incident was not the first and it won’t be the last. To Oyinbo people, it’s normal and justified to treat Nigerians anyhow. After all, their “leaders” treat them the same if not worse and they seem to be enjoying it. So why should they be enraged by ordinary lack of courtesy when in fact they are a people with history of mental and physical brutalization by their government!
This has reinforced my belief that Nigerians are a people with a scene of usual beauty. While some are fighting vigorously to make sure the BA is punished, others are using the incident to advance their own interests. Anyway, the Osamuyiwa Aikpitanhi’s case had opened my eyes. Look at those who pretended to be fighting Osamuyiwa’s case. Where are they now? Ask yourself why most of them are missing in this BA case. It’s because they have already gotten what they wanted. Smart fellows in deed! Are we a people who profess beliefs and opinions that we do not hold? Most of those in the forefront of this boycott may as well be those who couldn’t do without the British Airways.

Anonymous said...

Well said Funmi, but i beg to add Virgin Nigeria to the list too. I have had the worst treatment on Virgin Nigeria London/Lagos January 6th 2008 to be precise. They knew they had delays, they never mentioned it to passengers, they left us to wait at the airport from 8pm that i got there to 2am and gave us a voucher the equivalent of £5. What nonesense!!!! mind you i had to be at my office at 8am the following day, i had a presentation. What was i to do? my employers did not know i was out of the country. I do not think it would have caused the airline much to send e-mails to all customers informing us of the delay. I would have looked for an alternative immediately. The shops were all closed at the airport,no comfortable place to lay your head, i will never use them again, give me the insults from BA 200 times but get me to my destination in the agreed time.

Daddy's Girl said...

Very well said. I am in complete agreement.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Funmi for your article concerning the BA issue. Yes, we do have some Nigerians who will carry on flying BA irrespective of the boycott, that is their prerogative. The RNC's call for the boycott of BA's goods and services is not mandatory on all but a call on all Nigerians and non Nigerians who believe in equality, right to free speech and human dignity to send a clear message to BA that Nigerians who use their services have a right to be treated with respect and dignity irrespective of the state of their nation. When I pay for a service, I expect to be given the same treatment as other users of that service, I certainly do not expect that the level of service I receive is based on the socio-economic situation in my country of origin, the color of my skin or the fact my country does not have a national carrier.

To the allegation that some of us at the forefront of the campaign are doing it for selfish reasons, well, what can I say? I don't know if it is the free ticket I am seeking from BA that is the reason I am doing this or an appointment from BA. I am a regular traveller, and I thank God, I have not had cause to beg or seek free travel from anyone or organisation. I am very successfully in my career and not in need of a job change. I will appreciate it if tps360 can shed further light on the allegation made in that post.
I for a start see this BA campaign as the beginning of a new Nigeria. If Nigerians can come together for once, and send a collective message to our aggressors and tormentors, the sky is the limit. We will be putting these people on alert, because the searchlight can be beamed on them anytime.

Some have also complained about how other airlines treat Nigerian passengers. Well, this is true, I have travelled several airlines to and from Nigeria and have witnessed some of the degrading treatment meted out to Nigerians by airline staff. However, this BA incident tops it all, the attitude of BA on that flight, prior to the boycott, on the day the boycott started, when we went to BA offices and were confronted by fully armed police invited by BA and even after the 15th shows an organisation not willing to accept it was in the wrong and offer an apology to those passengers it humiliated on that flight. This arrogance and nonchallant attitude towards Nigerians is what needs to be nipped now before it escalates. Also this BA boycott will be sending a loud and clear message to other airlines that if they unfairly treat Nigerians, they'll pay dearly for it.

Nigerians are not the worst travellers in the world, believe me, I have travelled with some that make you wish to reach your destination quickly. Nigerians therefore should not be singled out for bad treatment simply because they are Nigerians, some of us will stand up and say NO! Dada o le ja, sugbon oni egbon ti o gbojule (Dada is not a fighter, but has elder siblings that can/will fight his battles) enough said!

Tosin Awotesu

Anonymous said...

BA is disastrous so i will say, i flew them 2 years ago and never will i fly with them again, Nigerians should endeavour to encourage our values and identity, six months ago i flew Bellview to J'bourg it was ok and wonderful service for cheap price of =N=68,000.00 compaired to =N=110,000.00 SA was charging. For my next UK trip i will definitely fly Bellview they need to be encourage. Let's all come together to boycott VIRGIN NIGERIA, BA even if they are giving us =N=5 to any destination of the world. BA need to learn from KENYA AIRWAYS on how to treat passage on board