Over the years Nigerian travellers have shown pride in travelling with UK mega carrier, British Airways. In fact, it is a sign of high social status to travel with the airline.
Nigeria and British Airways seemed to be yoked together. While high placed Nigerian passengers prefer the airline; the British carrier also see Nigeria as its strategic partner and has been airlifting Nigerian travellers for about eight decades.
But recently many Nigerian travellers have started complaining about the airline, which has a reputation for its high safety record.
But in reaction, BA said the allegations were not true.
According to some passengers, in comparison to other countries, the airline’s service to its Nigerian passengers is poor and the aircraft that operate its services to Nigerian destinations are old.
Putting strength to this allegation, one of the frequent travellers on the airline, Clem Nwanna, who said he hitherto enjoyed the services of the British carrier. He, however, alleged that there are poor services on BA when flying Nigerian routes, which are not obtained on other routes.
This was part of Nwanna’s documented experience: “Summer things and Naija experience (Memoir while in flight BA to LOS en route London Heathrow). BA 74 Flight out of Nigeria on 04/08: Wifi worked on air till London; 05/08: continued flights to Houston (BA 195) and other flights interchange to American Airline, Wifi worked throughout to Houston. 09 – 12/08: internal flights (American Airlines) have wifi all through and better services and 14/08: international flights US to Canada (American Airlines 1804 and 2942) Wifi worked.
Other experience included: “27/08: BA Canada to London – Wifi never worked. And I do not know why. 28/08: BA075 from LHR to LOS: plane is just too old -fashioned, no USB port etc. compared to slightly sophisticated fleet (BA 092) used for the Canada to London route. Just one hour into the trip: Nigeria Customs Form is being distributed.
“We did not see them in other countries upon entry. Lunch in BA 075: no salad no vegetables but the kind of joll-of rice and stewed chicken, with other side ‘mede-mede’…not bad. The entertainment (TV system) took more than one hour to reset…I have not experienced this in any international flight.
“Definitely there will be an apology or earlier notification. I think it was just a norm for them on this route!! The BA075 is an old fashioned plane. Even the in-flight map is not too different from Virgin Atlantic we flew to Botswana in 2006. The map just shows overview of destination in view and some nearby countries / cities.
“The features could not show 3D. But the in-flight map in the BA092 (I flew Canada to London) had digitalized on-site 3D map, rotating and showing all angles, nautical miles, nearby cities (and relative distances, as the plane trudges on),” Nwanna alleged.
However, British Airways Commercial Manager for West Africa, Kola Olayinka, disagreed with some of the traveller’s observations, stating that BA prides itself in serving its customers and would stop at nothing in achieving this at all time.
Olayinka said BA offers WIFI on selected flights only as its aircrafts are being enabled for WIFI progressively.
He stated that for the traveller to say BA did not have WIFI, it may well be that the particular aircraft in question did not have WIFI installed.
“I have personally been on a couple of flights out of Lagos with WIFI!” he added.
Countering the old impression by Nigerian travellers that BA and other international carriers use particular aircraft on the Nigerian route, Olayinka said, “We do not fly specific aircraft to Lagos. The same aircraft that comes to Lagos goes on to fly to New York or to Houston as the case may be. We currently fly a remodelled super High J 747 with configuration of 14F, 86J, 30W, 145M.
“(Lagos) This is a fairly newly modelled aircraft with modern and most updated inflight entertainment with over 40 Channels and over 100 movies to watch.”
On allegation of food, Olayinka said the airline offers variety of meal selections on board including some very popular Nigerian cuisine like Jollof rice, plantain amongst others.
He, however, admitted that individual choices might sometimes be limited or unavailable as it is difficult to satisfy about 300 passengers on board with specific and detailed requests.
“Custom forms are provided to airlines by the Nigerian authorities and it is to regulate inflow of FOREX from abroad, anyone flying in to Nigeria with over 10,000 dollars is required to fill these forms, there is no way the gentleman could have seen these forms on Houston flights as it is only a Nigerian government requirement for arrivals into Nigeria,” he stated, while responding to the traveller’s complaint on custom forms.
British Airways is a high-end legacy carrier that operates to Lagos and Abuja from its hub at Heathrow Airport, London.