Friday, April 18, 2008

British Airways: Apologize to Nigerians or Prepare For a Boycott!

Time and time again, Nigerians have been unfairly treated by various airlines during their travels. Recently, this kind of unfair treatment was meted out by British Airways to a Nigerian passenger, Mr. Ayodeji Omotade. Here is the story in his own words. Please read and sign the call for BA to apologize or face a boycott!

(From Nigerian Village Square)

Before you read Mr. Omotade's letter... Decide which course of action you are going to take. You can do one of the following:

1. Sign the online Nigerian Village Square petition compelling BA to apologize or face boycott
2. Send an e-mail to the CEO of British Airways, Willie Walsh, protesting over this mistreatment. (
3. Phone British Airways to register your protest by calling British Airways Customer Relations department on 0844 493 0 787 (from within the UK); +44 1293 666245 (from outside the UK).
4. Write in to: British Airways, Customer Relations (S506), PO Box 5619, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 2PG
5. Write about your own experience here.

On the 27th of March 2008 at about 12:30pm, I boarded the British Airways flight BA75 and I went straight to seat 53C. On getting to my seat, there were noises from an individual being forcibly restrained but who was not visible because some police officers and some plain clothes people held him down. The noise continued for more than 20 minutes and I was concerned because the individual was screaming in agony and shouting in pidgin English "I go die" meaning, I will die. I pleaded with the officers not to kill him and my exact words were "please don't kill him". The British Airways staff said that the officers were doing their jobs and that nothing was going to happen. The noise became louder and other passengers started getting concerned and were complaining especially about their safety. The situation continued for another 15 minutes after I got on.

Eventually, a member of the cabin crew announced that the passenger was going to be removed and the passenger was removed from the plane and we all thought that was the end of the situation. Five minutes later, two members of the cabin crew arrived with about 4 police officers and told me to get off the plane. I asked what the matter was and they said that I was not going to travel with the airline because the cabin crew thought I had been disruptive by questioning the noise being caused by the person that was removed. I pleaded with them that I was going for my brother's wedding and that I had all his stuff with me. I was dragged out of the plane as if I was resisting arrest. As we got to the corridor that linked the plane with the terminal building, I was slammed against the wall and made to sit on the floor. I was still pleading with them telling them that they had completely misunderstood me and that I was only complaining about the situation regarding the disturbances caused by the deportee they were trying to restrain and subdue. I was on the floor for about 20 to 25 minutes. Another passenger was brought to the corridor as well and he was also pleading with the officers.

I was later put in the back of the police van at about 1:50pm and I was locked up there for about an hour or more still handcuffed. I was formally arrested approximately 2:30pm and my rights were read to me. Before the arrest in the van, I managed to reach for my pocket and brought out my mobile phone. I made some phone calls to my wife, sister and a friend while the low battery sign was on because I was all alone and still handcuffed.

I was later driven to the police station where I was formally checked in. I was in police custody for almost 8 hours and later released on bail after the interview with the duty solicitor and the detectives. I had £473.00 on me which was seized as well as £90.00 sent to my mother in-law from my sister in-law and £1,050.00 given to me by my cousin who is a doctor for the upkeep of his parents in Nigeria. All the money together was £1,613.00. I was told that I would appear in a magistrate court to prove the money was not meant for crime or proceeds of crime. The officer told me that they will like to see traceability and that I needed my payslips and bank account detailing my payments and withdrawals as well as my cousin's payments and withdrawals.

I was released but without the money. I made my way to terminal 4 and arrived there at about 12:30am but the British Airways kiosks were closed. I was directed to the staff room and told them that I wanted to rebook my trip to Lagos. A lady told me to give her my ticket and she stated that British Airways has banned me from travelling with them indefinitely and that only the managers can use their discretions because I was a 'disruptive passenger'. I requested for my 2 piece luggage and she told me that the section will be opened later at about 5:30am and I will be escorted in to collect them. I slept on the chair and waited till about 5:30am and attempted to rebook my ticket but was told that British Airways refused to take me. I decided to go and pick up my stuff and I was told that my luggage were missing. I was handed a form with reference number LONBA90924. At this point, I became totally stranded because I could not leave without my luggage because it contained my brother's wedding suit, shirts and accessories.

I was on the phone with my wife and she wanted to book an alternative flight that departs at 10:15am so that I could make it for the wedding. This was not possible because British Airways refused to disclose where my luggages were and did not remove my luggage from the flight when they called the police to arrest me.

On Monday 31st of March, I appeared at the Magistrate court but was told that a decision was made about the £1,613.00 that was seized from me. The police had been granted a further 90 days to hold on to the money pending their investigation. I was given the officer's details . He requested 12 months bank statements and 6 months payslip to prove that the £473.00 that belongs to me was not proceeds of crime and also requested that the £1,050.00 that was given to me by my cousin for his parents should also be traced to my cousin's 12 months bank statement and 6 months payslip. DC Webster has promised to write me detailing these requests.

Still on Monday 31st of March 4 days after I was taken off the plane, I made extra efforts to find out the whereabouts of my 2 piece luggage (LONBA90924), because they have not been sent to my address as promised by calling the lost baggage section at 13:44hrs and spoke to a man called Neil who said that, it is difficult for them to trace my bags and that there is a strong possibility that they might be in Lagos. He suggested that I should call back in 24 hours.

Eventually, one week and one day later, my bags were brought to me at home. One was badly damaged and the other was intact. British Airways deliberately made sure I missed the wedding because if they were kicking me off their flight, they would have removed my bags from the flight. They were all there when the police officers made me to sit on the floor and heard me pleading to allow me fly for my brother's wedding. I could have made either KLM or Virgin Nigeria the following Friday morning.

I will not want to believe that the authorities involved in the situation deliberately or cleverly punished me unnecessarily out of frustration for not being able to restrain or subdue a deportee or that I as a fee paying passenger was accused of affray with violence when I was voicing my concerns about the disturbances caused by the deportees. I never mentioned any abusive or swear words neither was I physically threatening anyone. My luggage mysteriously was lost and I have been banned on all British Airways flights without a chance to say my part of the story to redeem myself. 135 passengers were asked to leave the flight because they expressed displeasure regarding the disturbances caused by the deportees and the officers trying to restrain him. My ticket was even refused to be endorsed by BA to enable me to fly with another airline. I need full compensation of my loss and also a letter of apology from British Airways.

Ayodeji Omotade


  1. You know I read this story some days ago
    and I was quite shocked that such acts is being carried out by British Airways... It's a shame I must say and the victim here deserves an apology and some compensation for what he's been put through...

    You have to give us one more option.
    How about we beat their employees/employers down?

  2. NOTE: I sent you an e-mail regarding the topic i told you about. I will send you another email with what I have written so far.

  3. I have not been able to focus in this issue but will definitely shine my eyes on i this weekend.

  4. i think a boycott is definitely in order...but, a permanent one...i am not interested in any half-assed apology...this is not the first time they have done such...signing a petition is concern is the message we are sending...disrespect us...we will write and harass and boycott you until you apologize...and thus commences the the us as of late, the new thing is for some white important person to hop on tv or radio and make some racist/insensitive remark...then they apologize, call jackson or sharpton to plead their case and then they're good to go... knows that many nigerians rely on them to travel home...if we boycott them, we will go use alitalia, or klm or lufthansa or whichever other non-african airline...the service i received on klm wasn't like that of mr. omotade, but i certainly left the flight assured beyond a shadow of a doubt that dutch are racist bastards and that i'd never fly klm again...and i haven't...

    ...i guess i'm more interested in writing a letter to the african union to implore them to invest in an airline that would fly abroad and to all countries in africa...but be african owned and managed so that we can recycle our money and not have to deal with racist fuckery abroad...that or write any african owned airlines and ask that they start making stops in's high time and i'm tired of patronizing racists while they chop my dollar and soon to be naira...

  5. The nerve of the idiots, and the poor chap (and his brother, and all the other friggin passengers who had to go through that entire ordeal). Do you think there's a way to literally get all the 20/30-somethings we know who fly in and out of nigeria in the summer (xmas seems to far away to get the point across) to NOT fly BA for 1 WEEK? That'll teach them. We could start the campaign now, start letting pp know not to book their tickets with BA, and spread via email/blogville. You'd be amazed at how emails and sms's are the fastest/most effective means of organizing collective action out there today. I'm tired of getting bitch-slapped by these silly airlines when Lagos is the busiest aviation hub in SSA...these idiots will keep doing this over and over again, until we finally actively show them that we CAN and WILL affect their bottom line if they keep treating us with such disregard!

  6. am all for mass action, only based on established facts.

    let's please examine the facts carefully.

    if indeed mr omotade is on the right, a mere apology is not acceptable. he shud seek legal action.

  7. More on the issue:

    April 30th might be the day, trust BA to underestimate Nigerians'ability to organize collectively. We'll wait and see. As for me and my household, I haven't flown BA in over 2 years (After a badly handled luggage incident) and have given up on "loyalty" to airlines in general...may the lowest priced carrier (which BA is not) win!

  8. gosh ! this is like the 2nd time am posting my comment cos of my lousy ISP !

    .....but u see, the problem is- can Nigerians coordinate themselves and act on this April 30th and assuming they do, can they stick to not patronizin BA in particular?
    it would be nice to cause BA to loose a lot of money at least to feel our impact !
    never knew they were racist, fine i get to hear from one or two sources about their shabby treatment but never imagined its this deep,

    weldone afrobeat !

  9. so april 30th it is then! read Nigerian Curiosity for my thoughts on the ned for a longterm plan on how to deal with BA or as i have coined them - BRUTISH AIRWAYS!

    Keep up the good work and I linked to this post, my sista

  10. The day I stopped flying with BA was when they started spraying the cabin with an insecticide that almost made you choke to death! The crew wore masks whilst spraying but did not see it fit to provide masks for the passengers. That was not all, they refused to turn on the air in the plane and when the passengers complained they sprayed some more. That was the LAST time I flew with BA. Never again! This discrimination has got to end.

  11. What's happening on April 30th and is it in the US or UK?

    I like G/Nigeriana's suggestion. We need more african/nigerian airlines that would fly the UK, US and Nigerian Routes.

    There needs to be a long term solution and I believe this is the way to go, if we are going to boycott all racist airlines. Like G/nigeriana and some other posters have pointed out, BA is not the only racist one.

  12. I'm so pissed off.This treatment on Ayodeji is totally unacceptable. This is really annoying. I read the story and I'm really angry I never knew he was arrested and detained.For what? Nigerians should boycott Brutish airways. I wonder what our government is doing to this issue. We've heared of cases like this in the past and the Nigerian government never fought for the rights of their citiens. So pathetic.

  13. Good News...well depends on how you look at it..Our President has ordered the minister of state for transportation(aviation) Felix Hyatt, to begin an investigation...'Adua%20orders%20probe%20of%20British%20Airways%20incident

    I think this is a good first step...thoughts??

  14. kome, no not good news when you look a little deeper, my sista. I wrote about why at NIGERIN CURIOSITY.

    Also, I am so glad that The Afro Beat has its own domain name now! I am going to change my blogroll to account for it. By the way, Afro beat peeps, did you change your blogroll to account for my domain name change? Just so you know, its


  15. @ ms emmotions, it's a tough one... most people will continue to fly the lowest-fare / most convenient airline, and in this case, it isn't BA most of the time.
    The nigerians who patronize BA do it for a couple of reasons - loyalty ("i grew up flying BA and that's all i really know in terms of the Lagos-London rounte PLUS, i've love racking up my BA miles"); convenience ("BA has the most flights from Lagos to Heathrow (Virgin Nigeria flies to Gatwick but will soon have flights to Heathrow) per week and their timing/schedule works best for mine"); price ("once in a while, their flight deals work great for me").
    The question is, can we possibly convince the Nigerians who fly BA regularly/ during peak season to forgo the loyalty/convenience/price deals offered by BA, for ONE WEEK (that week would have to be a few months down the line as I'm pretty sure that those folks flying in the next month or two have already bought their tickets). I think it can be done, we just have to make sure we're united on it. I think if we contacted a few radio stations about our plans, and maybe even some other airlines got wind of this planned action, they would offer price incentives (lower airfares) on their Lagos-London route during that week (alternatively, it could backfire, and they raise their prices since they know pp won't be using BA that's a gamble).

    As Solo and i were discussing, the main thing is to make sure we leverage this new wave of frustration against mistreatment of Nigerians by these airlines (and perhaps other organizations guilty of poor treatment of their Nigerian clientele), and make sure it doesn't die down into "old news". That's what BA is counting on - our long-term memory loss, and our "bo, what can we do" mentality (for lack of better phrasing).

    @ allyurz, pele about the insecticide o, i've had that experience on BA aa couple of times to, but i never saw them with masks, otherwise i would have made a fuss as well, since they're always going on about how its harmless.

    @ naijalines, april 30th was the deadline given to BA to issue a public apology to nigerians and to the 136 booted off the flight in question. The collective action i'm calling for would have to be sometime in June i'm thinking, as that's the earliest time i think we might be able to influence BA patrons to NOT fly BA.

    @ Today's ranting & Kome, addresses why Yar'Adua's launched investigation is too little too slow.

    @ Solo, i've linked to your domain name o! thanks for doing the same. will talk later!

  16. this story has been around awhile and i have been boycotting ba a little longer than that (about 7 years). it does not help that even the victim - mr omotade - attempted to continue his journey with ba. it says a lot about us nigerians.

    we have the power to bring ba to its knees (the same power we have to bring down our corrupt politicians which we never use) but it will not happen because of so many half-literate nigerians still patronising them, the same people who clap when the plane lands in lagos!

  17. Ah!!! Boycott no go work . It is the elites who fly BA and most of them have been collecting air miles and have loyalty cards... I think this is the major impediment u will face...

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