Saturday, January 06, 2007

Do unto others

It's understandable that one of OBJ's former rottweilers (also known as the Elite Spokespersons Brigade), Femi Fani-Kayode, is looking out for his people. He took over from Babalola Borishade after the ADC crash which killed the Sultan of Sokoto in October. Since then, he's set about clearing the dirty filthy stable that is the Nigerian aviation ministry. But his latest diatribe is a bit of a shot in the dark.

Mr Fani-Kayode wants British airlines to stop being rude to Nigerian customers! Are you kidding me? We always complain that we're being treated like dirt by the airlines. There was a time I was convinced that we didn't just get the worst service, but also the worst aircraft. But you know what? If we behave like cattle, we can only expect to be treated like cattle. Nigerians deserve every electric prod, every scolding, every mistreatment they receive at airports.

No doubt, the enlightened ones will carp on about how they're civilised and they shouldn't be treated badly simply because their compatriots are acting like prats. Anyone who's ever travelled to Nigeria knows the drill. Passengers don't wait until Nigeria to "behave like Nigerians", they flip mode at Heathrow Terminal 3. The simple matter of weighing luggage becomes akin to buying £10 worth of cow leg - put a bit more, take off some, shave a bit on the side. Because you're going to Nigeria, people suddenly start claiming that you're related to them, and could you please take this to my grandfather in Adamwa. They meet you at the airport with a small fridge stuffed with Primark clothes and Tesco plastic bags.

Then you go to counter and start pleading with them to allow you carry two pieces of luggage weighing 38kg each for free, when the allowance is and has always been 32kg. You're one person. The heavily made up woman behind the till smiles through the ordeal. Then she realises she has to deal with nearly 300 people with similarly outrageous claims. There are people arguing about who arrived first and, "madam, lemme just pass through this side". Which Nigerian in the UK calls another Nigerian "madam"?

If the plane - by some miracle - is exactly on time, the air stewards have to contend with a babelic cacophony of loud languages. And then there is the fisticuffs. I remember a fight nearly breaking once on a transit flight at the airport in Accra, shortly before taking off for Lagos. "I will beat you here, this is not Europe oh!" The passengers land at their final destination, and before the planes stops taxiing, before the lights saying "keep seat belts fastened" are switched off, people are up and about and getting their luggage out. And Mr Fani-Kayode wants BA and Virgin to be polite to this lot?

People who work in airlines tend to be the most patient of people. It takes a lot to push an airline employee to the limit. If you rub someone up the wrong way at 30,000ft, the consequences could be dire. It's good that our minister of aviation is finally taking an interest in passenger welfare, even though I have this silly idea that keeping them alive is slightly more important.

These BA and Virgin employees are a product of Nigerian influence. They probably now have the ability to "flip mode" when in a Nigerian environment. Believe me, they don't treat other African airlines as badly as they do Nigeria. We should do unto Virgin and British Airways, as we would have them do unto us.


Toksboy said...

Nkem, one of the best and most balanced reviews of the naija travel mentality. Does it not make your skin crawl sometimes the way our people behave? And please oh. This is not limited to just the ones in cattle class. Our "elite" in first are just as bad. Whilst I am a nationalist and see no excse to be treated differently when travelling to Naija or travelling to NY (there is a big difference).It is also fair to say that FKs tirade will ensure that the airlines do not overstep the bounds of decency which they have done once or twice in my experience.
Would I want to be a steward\ess on these flights? Only if I was equipped with a Tazer gun, Mace and the patience of a saint.

Good blog.

Anonymous said...


I do see your point, but then I am viewing it from the perspective of quite well-mannered and considerate Nigerians - and there are quite a few.

The problem here is the issue can suffer the context of generalisation which is I assuming most of the travellers are well-behaved and you assuming most of the travellers are rotten customers.

Since, I travel a lot, albeit rarely to Africa, I cannot countenance a situation where I would be treated rudely by any company offering me a service and hence I can see Fani-Kayode's grievance as valid.

Neither do I want to be in a situation where other people's attitudes make my skin crawl, as toks-boy indicates.

It might well be that, the grievance only really matters for the minority and the minority would include me - so my write-up Nigeria will not tolerate rude airlines

In the end, the Aviation Minister should address both ends, customers and airlines objectively.

Zaynnah Magazine said...

I agree that some Nigerians behave in an embarassing manner when it comes to travel. From the man who was insisting on carrying his 28 inch tv as hand-luggage at Heathrow to a woman who apparently stored a cooler of stew in an overhead locker...the stories I've heard about Nigerian travellers are endless!

But I agree with Akin on this one. Naturally, airline staff should be allowed to do their job, which no doubt, would often include being firm with travellers (of any nationality) when it comes to unreasonable requests and behaviour. However, good customer service is fundamental in the travel and leisure industry.

And so rather than tarnish all (or the majority) with the same brush by routinely being rude and dismissive, airline staff must remember that Nigerian travellers are customers too.

The conclusion that both customers and airlines need to be addressed objectively, is a valid one - in my humble opinion!

Jennifer A. said...

I know I'm no supposed to be laughing but...lollllll...

"I will beat u here o, this is not Europe." N-I-G-E-R-I-A-N-S!!!!! NO FURTHER COMMENTS!

Anonymous said...

lol @ the comments. I totally concur with Akin et April.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing to add. Nigerians can be hyper-rude!

When it comes to stereotyping us, I don't think the airlines have any right to do so. Cantankerous or not, we're still customers.

That said, I've never been treated rudely on any flight, and people have always been helpful when it comes to assisting me.

Put it down to the assumption in the case of the non-elite that they can get away with anything, or by the elite that their credentials allow them to behave the way they want to.

Dami said...

"The simple matter of weighing luggage becomes akin to buying £10 worth of cow leg - put a bit more, take off some, shave a bit on the side."

hey i swear u must have seen my mum at the airport, "i think those towels are too much,this shoe is a bit heavy dont you think, but i need it for the wedding blah blah blah

even if they give nigerians 80kg we will still over pack!
I think this came as a result of the flights cancelled in the uk during the xmas period and everybody was affected not just nigerians-my friend got her luggage some days later

soul said...

Bollocks Nkem and you know it.

The airline staff should do their jobs simple.
If the luggage is overweight, say no and turn face. there is nothing they can do then, airlines have security personnel and discretion to aloow certain things.. they allow it all the time.

I have sat on a British Airways flight to Nigeria where once on board, the cabin crew basically retreated to the back of the plane, and pretty much refused to answer the passenger calls (via the button of course).
In addition on approach to Muritala airport, a member of the cabin crew whizzed around the cabin, selectively handing immigration cards to all the white passengers, people where saying excuse me, can I have one and he ignored them.
I was incensed!.
30mins to landing and you had a queue of Nigerians with British passports lining up on the inside of a BA plane in order to obtain an immigration card just because the steward presumed that all the black folk on the flight wouldn't need one.

I have been on flights to NY where stewards have placed allowed British people to carry on luggage marked heavy because the person was late and they used discretion.
I've borne witness many times to people at NewYork terminals attempting to fly with overweight articles..
They are simply told NO. or allowed at the airlines staffs discretion.
I've watched many White Americans get completely belligerant at check out, I've watched many white Brits get completely shit face drunk before boarding. (which actually isn't allowed)..
I've been on a Nigerian flight where a Scottish bloke was shit face drunk, and was served more alcohol.. this guy was soo drunk that he didn't make it to the bathroom and relieved himself all over the floor..

I've been on a flight where they allowed a drunk white American man who was throwing up to fly. He was soo drunk he had to be escorted to the gate by staff. He was still allowed to fly, they gave him a sick bag to throw up in on the flight..

Airline staff are extremely rude to Nigerians. If they do not want to engage in any negotiations re: overweight luggage, all they need to do is say no and and call security.

Seems like you've never seen Indians travelling with luggage.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Akin, April & Soul. Nkem you seem to be getting rather pompous in your posts and perhaps due to your middle class lifestyle are forgetting your origins.

Remember unless of course you are going to be taking 1st class to Nige you will proberbly be tarnished with the same brush as the people you made those generalisations about. (but then again you most proberbly don't travel that way much anymore)

My main concern is that the BA staff have started to pre-empt bad behaviour and are rude to most customers from the start.

culturalmiscellany said...

Hhmmm a tricky one. Unusual I know but I do agree with some of Soul's comments. Whilst it is not true in all cases I have seen flight staff behave differently towards people of different nationalities, and that is not just Nigerians! However, I do think Nkem has a point that the behaviour has its root in the way certain nationalities deal with flight staff.

When I first went to the 'weighing area' at Heathrow I was astonished by the behaviour of those present. Even my normally quiet friends switched right before my eyes. It is astonishing the chaos that can erupt in such a small space. Embarassingly enough I was one of those people repacking in April as I set MrO off for Lagos. I have no idea how people will cope next month when the baggage limit reduces to 23kg per luggage piece.

I am interested to see how I am received in April when I travel to Lagos. It was interesting enough buying my ticket and seeing the BA official at Heathrow raise his eyebrows in astonishment at my destination. Anyone would think I was mad?

ayoke said...

Me, I'm with Akin, April and Soul. They should just be the professionals they are trained to be. Sure, we encounter difficult people in our everyday dealings but it's not an excuse to act in an untoward manner as our standby mode.

Beautifully Human said...

I'm with Nkem on this one and beleive that people should be treated the way they deserve to be treated. and this not only applies to those travelling in economy class (which I usually do) but also the so-called elite in first class.
sometimes I feel for the airline staff. there is only so much rudeness and mad behaviour one person can take!

Anonymous said...

act like an animal get dealt with like one. Glad Ive been avoiding the primates during holiday seasons.

Anonymous said...

Hmm,I see you point but I also agree with Fanny K. Whilst alot of travelling nigerians can be uncouth louts alot of US and I mean US including U are not. We deserve some respect. Ive had some1 tell me she asked for her seat to be changed for some very good reason and they told her if she didnt like it she should fly with their airline, only to realize how wrong that was and apologetically state that the plane was full booked. Fanny needs to look at both sides of the coin sha.

Biodun said...

lol, so true, I have in the past disclaimed my naija heritage while travelling, the way some passengers act is soo darn annoying!! Why would you just block the aisle in the tiny plane, lost in your gossip, shouting @ d top of your voice! Fani-Kayode is smoking crack if that is his priorities @ the moment!

Beautifully Human said...

@ all of you saying that the airline staff should act professionally- I think the criticism is being seriously misplaced here; the staff working for the local Nigerian airlines wouldn't know professionalism if it jumped up and bit them in the backside!!

The Weekend Economist said...

Hahahahaha. All I can say is this is a really funny and great article. Although i've never flown to Nigeria, I do know many Nigerians who have tried to play the exact same tricks you mentioned. And whenever there is some sort of a problem they tend to act as if all the injustice has been done to them; that what they are asking for is 100% legitimate.