• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

On this airline, it’s bring your own seat!

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It’s not in your character! Yes, you know it’s truly not in your character, but today you have found yourself running a little late to catch your flight. Inside the taxi on your way to the airport, you are anxious and it shows. You can see the taxi driver looking in the rare view mirror, possibly wondering what the matter is with you. “When is your flight?” he asks finally to underscore the fact that he has noticed your uneasiness.

“It’s 8.25,” you reply almost at the same time as your are wishing away any traffic that could possibly delay your journey to the airport, and turn your degree of lateness to the type that would be considered not pardonable by the lordies and lordesses at the typical check-in counters of the airline. As you rush into the departure hall pulling your luggage as you do, you heave a sigh of relief. And that’s really because you can see that the counter is still open and the first desk (a very common African Airport routine) where you are manually registered into the manifest and your name ticked to indicate you have shown up to make an attempt at boarding the flight, is still manned.

What happens next, makes you begin to truly thank God for making it possible for you to make this flight; for in truth, you know that you have just done what is typically referred to as ‘escaping by a hair’s breathe”.  So you are a tad lucky because as soon as you look back after having your passport checked and an entry made that you had showed up to board the flight, you see the registration desk being wheeled away. You are the last person to be attended to!

Yo! Yippee! Yabadabadoo! Aha, that last one is you showing that you still remember times spent on the sofa with C.O.A. in the Queen’s land watching The Flintstones. Those were truly very interesting times. Yabadabadoo is appropriate if you’d ever found yourself at the mercy of check-in attendants. Before the big crisis in Nigerian aviation, one airline which popularized local online flight booking, appeared to have instructed its attendants to feign indifference whenever passengers showed up 30 seconds late! Passengers used to nearly roll on the floor to beg these attendants to allow them still check in given that they were late by just seconds, even a few minutes. Like many of us like to do, we enjoy power and the attendants of this airline at the time really know how to lap it up! They were will were stern faces, the type you won’t even see around torture chambers! They just loved it, and loved seeing how grown men and women would almost cry just to get theses attendants to listen to them and allow them check in to take their flight.

That was then. We know what later happened to that airline and what position it is in right now. It’s not impossible that its attendants still behave in an unfriendly manner but, trust me, I can tell their wings have been seriously clipped. Customer service is always a problem over here folks. We all know it is. Sometimes, however, it gets even worse they way that they just like to carry on as if you literally owe your life to them. That’s how they would like you to see their power; earned or stolen! It’s just a mirror of all the impunities we see around us.

Of course, an airline needs time to get ready; and passengers also get to be given time within which to complete all check-in formalities. Passengers try to meet up. Because they know that nobody will wait for them they genuinely try to get to the airport on time to board their flight. Sometimes, though, city traffic, especially in a place like Lagos, can become chaotic that passengers get stuck and are unable to meet up. So, what do a check-in attendants tell you? “We have closed the flight. Go and rebook,” “The plane is about to taxi out.”

Hmmm! If you are late to the airport with a flight to catch, genuinely or otherwise, this is when you begin to understand fully how bad customer service is in this part of the world. Besides, you soon get to find out how lies are routinely told just because you had come into departure just one minute late.

So, there you are, still counting your luck that you came in and you are the last to be attended to. And that you are going to board this flight. As you chat with the woman behind the counter who is checking your baggage to ensure that it is not more than the allowable weight, you asked if the plane is really ready to take off. “You had better hurry up to the boarding gate as they are already boarding.” Hmmm, that’s serious. You rush off to the boarding gate. As you get there you find that there are more people in the waiting area and with this number the plane couldn’t have boarded any one. They lied to you. In fact, the plane is not yet on the ground. It’s probably doing one last minute take on the Abuja – Lagos route. That’s what they do, these airlines!

It would take more than one hour or so. And when they eventually called the flight there was nobody offering any form of apology. Nobody even talked to you except to call the flight. One man, already angry is asked by an airline official to hold on after being called to board, but he continues. “I am not going to hold on. You guys have guts. You waste our time and nobody offers an apology and you want me to hold on?” But that’s not all.

Everybody is boarding this plane and taking their seats. But two people getting to their own seats find they cannot seat on the space that was supposed to be their seats. They have been ripped off. “What is this?” One of them asked. “I can’t sit on this,” another said. Then one cheeky voice spoke the following: “In this airline, it’s bring your seat from home!”

PHILLIP ISAKPA