Airline Services – Post Dana Plane Crash

Safe Flights, Safe Flights, Safe Flights

Phewww! One trip done, one more to go. The trip from Abuja to Lagos four days ago went relatively smooth because they only delayed the flight for an hour. It wasn’t so bad that two of us were assigned the same seat; I was able to find an empty one.

Today, 3rd July 2012, the last trip awaits me, my return journey to Abuja. The ticket says 15:45 so I got a taxi from Ikeja (in Lagos) at 13:00. It would take me an hour, worst case two if the traffic is thick. I arrived  at the Airport at 14:10.

A serpent reminiscent of Anaconda ignored me, unaware of my arrival, as I entered MM2 Airport. The serpent made a reverse “L” shape. It was alive. It moved. Passengers pushed their luggage along the serpent; the serpent is a check-in queue. At the head of the serpent is a sign that reads “Abuja”. This is my queue.

A floating screen showed flights and departure time. Beside my flight, the time read 17:30. Damn! The flight has been delayed almost 2hrs. Treaded the serpent and headed upstairs to the waiting lounge.

My mother called. I told her about the delay. She assured me that what matters is that it is a safe flight (not the time). I looked within and tied my argumentative self to a leash.

It is 15mins after the postponed time of departure. DING! A voice announces that there is a further 30mins delay. I wondered if that meant 15mins left. 40mins pass and DING! Another delay of 30mins announced.

A delayed passenger sitting next to me sighed and then said “Well, better safe than sorry. What matters is we get there safe”. As if the delay was caused by a repair. I strengthened and shortened my leash.

Four hours after the original departure time, we queued to board. An hour and a half later we landed in Abuja. The lady next to me sighed and followed up with “At least thank God we have arrived safe”. I was now playing tug-of-war with my argumentative self. Safe flights, safe flights, safe flights Aaarrrrrgh!

**

June 3rd 2012 was a tragic day for Nigerians. Nigerians united in grief to mourn victims of the Dana Plane Crash. We continue to pray for the victims.

History is shaped by memorable events which may be traumatic. These events shape the vocabulary of discourse; e.g. recent American Foreign policy is largely made, read, and understood through the bifocal glass of pre-911 and post-911. Similarly the Dana Plane Crash is defining our perceptions of and reactions to Airline Services.

Nigerians are known for taking bad news with grace; or what could be construed as grace. Amidst the grief of the crash, stories of hope and survival started spreading. The most famous one is that of the two passengers who missed the flight for reasons not theirs, and how one of them made a scene at the check-in counter, and how they exchanged numbers… only to contact each other after the crash to collaborate on interpreting the divinity of their survival. Even funny stories. The famous funny story is the one about the husband who lied to his wife about going to Lagos on that flight because he wanted to be away with his “mistress”, only to have to face his wife in awkward confrontation and confession. The funny story is also a fun riddle; usually presented as “what would you do if you are the wife”?

There are of course two stories of people who didn’t get on that plane for one reason or the other; which I have confirmed to be true. However, the popular stories (as above) stir up prudence in me that I am reluctant to believe it exactly as told. Whatever my qualms with the stories, I think their effect has been powerful. Especially being that Nigeria was once “The Most Religious Country”. The average Nigerian explains away a situation (past, present and future) with God: “we can only pray now”, “na so papa God want am”, “sai addu’a” etc. The short story at the beginning of this blog reveals the effect of such popular stories: which is Complacency and Lowered Standard.

On identifying this effect, I became proud of a blogger (Omojuwa) I read about the night before who is uncompromising, relentless (and threatening) on the services he got from an Airline; the Airline “lost” his/her ipad.

I say we continue to pray for victims of Dana Air Crash. I say we bring back our standards of expected services in Aviation (God knows our pre-Dana-crash expectations were low enough). Let us not settle for Safe Flights. Even if we find it difficult not to read divinity into safe flights, then that is “divine” service not the one you are entitled to as a customer on an Airline. Let us demand proper Airline Services.

Disclaimer: This is directed at Airlines in Nigeria.

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