by Eromo Egbejule
Nigerians have suddenly acquired superhuman powers and can now survive without oxygen or on a limited supply, new research has shown.
And this is thanks to our good friends at Aero Contractors who based on the scientific discovery above and out of the goodness of their hearts, have decided that the best customer service is none.
Apparently, Aero has decided that competition is good in the aviation industry and Arik Air, that beloved airline that prides itself as the wings of Nigeria, is too lonely in the bad services category so they must compete with them to see who can rule that category. It’s a true roforofo fight.
On Wednesday the 21st January, I was scheduled to attend a conference in Port Harcourt. Due to some personal reasons, I couldn’t use my preferred local operators, Medview Airlines and Dana Air which are cheaper and have quality customer service. The earliest available flight was an Aero Contractor flight for 2:15pm.
For some unexplainable reason, I got to the airport more than an hour early and was hoping we would board early too.
2pm came and went and no call for boarding. I got up repeatedly to ask Aero officials if the calls had been made over the public address system and maybe I had missed it, as I bent over my laptop, working.
After 30 minutes of silence, it was announced that our flight had been shifted to 3:15pm. Immediately we boarded, it was easy to notice that the aircraft was stuffy and the engines had been off. We were in this condition for the next one hour. Some passengers (including the comedian Gordons who in his all-black outfit was sweating buckets) were banging on the cockpit door so the door could be opened but the pilots were mute. The steward at the rear exit refused to let anyone down because there were no stairs to climb down. A nursing mother who was as uncomfortable as her child and who had no idea what was happening at the rear, came forward and the staff was screaming at her. Such remarkable courtesy!
There was also an air hostess whose saucy attitude was stewing our emotions; at some point, she told us in a haughty voice that the doors would be opened and those who wanted to get down should quickly do so to allow the plane takeoff with the others!
Everywhere within the plane, people were praying and shouting and talking, punctuated by the voice of another of the stewards who to his credit, was courteous while he was sharing water and trying to explain calmly that the engines were being revved back to life. The engines never started.
Regarding the health hazards of Aero’s conduct, it is imperative to state that this was a full flight and there could not have been more than four empty seats in the Boeing 747. Imagine the scenario if there had been asthmatic patients on board.
Eventually, the doors were opened around 4:20pm and everyone disembarked for fresh air. In the nearby lounge as we waited while the airline to bring another plane and do a swap, some top staff – the Chief Operating Officer or Chief Commercial Officer or something – came to address us.
I sat down where I was, trying to stay calm as he pleaded with us to take things easy. Passenger after passenger complained about the terrible customer service and urged Mr Top Staff to give us all some form of compensation. His response was to start blaming the government for not expanding airports to allow people land and takeoff at any time, without explaining why the plane was faulty.
To say the least, I was shocked but the entire debacle. Why everyone has to blame the government for any and everything is beyond me. We as a people are not ready for change yet.
Aero Contractors has lost a customer because truth is, I will never fly with them again except as last resort or if they are the only operators on a particular route. If there were others today who like me travel very often, then the badmouthing and reduction in passenger traffic will be significant.
And that will be bad for business.
Eromo Egbejule is a freelance journalist who tweets from @Helvetika_