• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Good afternoon, Mr Alfonsos. Your seat number is 14C

seat

Aircrew are envied by friends and family. Imagine spending your days off work in different parts of the world- New York, Singapore, Los Angeles and Seychelles, all in a month. Either flying internationally or locally, none is different when you are visiting cities you have never been or cosmopolitan cities that have much fun to offer. Lagos-Kaduna-Kano-Port Harcourt offered the same thrill.  Yes, there are company executives who live this way. Not a handful but most times they work too hard to enjoy such opportunities. Having to deal with jet lag and unending meetings, they barely enjoy the travelling and beautiful cities. They are too busy to ‘see’ the world.

As air crew; work hours can be long and tedious too. Being on your feet all day or night can be tough. However, that’s where the similarity ends; except for a few crew-entrepreneurs.

Once the aircraft touches down in a fancy city; its another life! You go through immigration and customs; pick up your bags and head to your holiday resort (hotel) for the next 3days of layover- the short holiday. This is the fun part everyone loves!

The tough part- dealing with passengers. The passenger (customer) is king. They make or mar your day. I would like to share this  experience because the issue of rage by passengers cannot be removed. However, passengers should know the due processes must be followed in this industry, most times like no other. When the contrary happens, the situation can be bad for any offending party.

On this particular day, my day was almost marred. There had been bad weather report all morning. Finally, the flight to Enugu was reinstated due to a reported better weather condition. Boarding was quick. A full flight and off we went to Enugu. Landing in was smooth. A quick turn around and we were ready to commence boarding for the inbound flight. Another round of flights, lay-over was in Port Harcourt tonight.

It was obvious this was going to be a tough flight. Passengers were grumpy and unfriendly from the delay. With the crew at their boarding positions, we welcomed them into the cabin.

“4A, Window seat, Sir. Welcome onboard”

“Good afternoon, Mr Alfonsos. Your seat number is 14C, aisle seat on your right. Welcome onboard.”

“If I don’t welcome, what will happen! Abeg, mechi-onu.”

Sometimes, the remarks are worse and the attitudes down right mean when flights are delayed. We on the receiving end would go on smiling like nothing happened- that’s some skill!

“Hello Sweets, please, help with this.” I looked up from the next-in-line boarding passenger. One of my team members needed my attention. Following closely behind him was a middle aged man, obviously furious by the look on his face.

“Why would I be given a seat already occupied by another? Do you people not think? Please, make sure you give me another seat before I count 5!”

“My sincere apologies, Sir. Will sort it out right away. Please, take a temporary seat and a cup of water, I will be with you shortly.”

I asked my colleague to stand in line for me, informed the others in the cabin and headed down the stairway. I called the attention of the flight coordinator to help with the seat re assignment. He went into the terminal whilst I waited at the foot of the aircraft for his return.

A few minutes later, I felt a hard push on my shoulder and turned back. I almost lost my balance because of the ‘hot slap’ that hit my face.

“I told you to go and change my seat and you are standing here doing nothing.”

I grappled to stand but was too dazed. I lost balance. At this point my colleague whom I had asked to board passengers whilst I went on this task had called the Captain’s attention to what was happening. The Captain, a man from Guinea stormed down the stairway, heading towards us. I was pulled up and offered a seat on the last rung of the stairway. I was still unable to comprehend why anyone would do this to another.

The Captain; “I did not see you touch her but was it true you slapped her?”

“Yes, I did. I asked her to go change my seat but she stood her doing nothing.”

“It is against aviation security laws for anyone to get physical in contact with the crew or another passenger or the aeroplane. I am sorry, I have to hand you over to aviation security.”

By now, the flight coordinator was back with a new boarding pass for the passenger. The Captain collected it and insisted the flight coordinator go get the Safety/Police Officers’ of the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

While we waited, the Captain called the attention of the crew to remove the cabin luggage and checked-in items of the of the ‘gentleman’ from the airplane. That did not go well with the man who ran up the stairs of the airplane shouting. Beforeb anyone who could stop him, he was inside the aircraft repeatedly shouting to passengers, “They want to remove me from the flight, after they delayed us at the airport for hours.”

The passengers onboard, in unision, said, “You can’t remove him, you dare not.” The Captain and myself were right behind him.

The Captain picked up the PA system, “Ladies and Gentlemen, by the ICAO civil aviation law standard, the man will have to be handed over to the civil aviation security officers. If he is not careful and causes further disruption, he would be prosecuted. At this time, I want him to disembark the aircraft for the safety and security of everyone on board. If you as a passenger feel grieved by my decision, please, consider the option of leaving with him.”

At this time, the security officers were on board and  had the passenger handcuffed and taken of the airplane. Of course, not so easily. With a few papers signed by me, the officers left the ramp. None of the other passengers followed him.

An hour later, the flight landed at the Lagos terminal safely. It was generally a quiet flight. As passengers disembarked, a slim man came up to me and in a moment brought out a phone and took a picture! “I will deal with you for having that man arrested and disembarked.” A few other passengers that were nbehind him also turned to me, threatening to deal with me. I immediately called another crew to man the door and see through the process. I ran ahead of the men and reported to the security officers in the terminal. All four of them were arrested for breach of security.

After hours of engagement at the ‘tango station,’ we were all release- the flight crew and the four passengers. Apologies and hugs were finally exchanged for all of the fights. The men did not know the passenger had been physically abusive. Port Harcourt lay over forgotten, the crew ended up spending the night in Lagos. Far from what we had planned earlier!

Mojereola Mustapha