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. (firstname.lastname@example.org?
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.