On Sunday December 12, 2010, I boarded Arik Air W3 0101, on what I thought was a direct flight to London Heathrow.
After immigration, all passengers aboard were informed via a letter dated Oct 12, 2010 that the flight would be routed via Abuja.
We were presented with just one copy of the letter, on which the “October” was crossed off and “December” handwritten to replace it..
Several passengers, including myself, were most displeased at this diversion without prior notice as we had all expected based on our contract with Arik Air that we were flying direct to London Heathrow.
This was to be the least of our trying experiences on the day. The rest are relayed below:
1. The flight was scheduled to take off from Lagos at 11:10am, but did not depart until 1:00pm. In this time, the only explanation given by the staff was that the plane was being “prepared”. We boarded onto an aircraft in which the internal temperature was at least 40 degrees centigrade. It was considerably hotter on the plane than the outside. We were told that once the plane was fully boarded, the doors shut and the engine started, the air-conditioning would be put on. This was not to be. Needless to say, this terribly uncomfortable situation led to very loud complaints by a number of passengers. We were later to discover that the delay was due to protests from the cabin crew who were also unaware and it appeared, unwillingly to fly through Abuja.
2. The passengers’ very loud complaints soon grew into active protests. They insisted that the flight would not be routed through Abuja. They refused to settle down in their seats and thus the flight could not take off! It would have been funny had it not been so serious! Being caught in this situation along with other passengers, I took it upon myself to speak with the most vocal and most visibly angry passenger. I appealed for a collective but constructive approach in registering our complaint. I also spoke with a member of the cabin crew, who appreciated that the situation had spiralled out of control. She allowed me to make an announcement on the plane’s PA system. My message was simply that I was a fellow passenger, as infuriated as the rest of them; nonetheless, it was necessary that we calmed down and take a collaborative approach to registering our dissatisfaction. I drafted a petition to Arik Air on behalf of all passengers (attached). This was signed by ALL passengers. This appeared to calm the passengers down and we were able to take off for Abuja.
3. We had been informed that the flight was being routed through Abuja to pick up 22 passengers. On arrival in Abuja at 2pm, only about 4 passengers got on board. This again incensed the passengers, who again started to pace the aircraft and seat anywhere they pleased, without regard for their allocated seat. At this point, the cabin crew who had obviously lost control of the passengers responded thus: ‘it is free seating, and as we asked everyone to seat down and they did not, anyone can seat anywhere’. Security personnel were invited on board to remove a particularly irate lady with an economy ticket, who probably in her quest for more comfort had gone to seat in business class and was refusing to move! On arrival of the security team, the passengers were united in their response that the removal of the one passenger meant that all passengers would submit to wilful arrest. It was by this time, a most chaotic situation - passengers were very angry, very uncomfortable and very hungry. We were yet to be served any food at a time at which we should have arrived at our destination. I imagine the limited resources onboard meant the cabin crew could either serve us now and not during the flight, or they lost presence of mind in the situation in which they found themselves.
4. Whilst in Abuja, the head of the cabin crew asked how long it would take to refuel the plane. She was told 40mins and this information was passed on to us. Correctly assessing our mood due to the earlier experiences, she told the refuelling team (to the hearing of the passengers) that the conditions on the plane were unbearable and should refuelling exceed 40minutes, her crew would disembark! In spite of this threat, the layover in Abuja took 2hours and the flight did not depart Abuja till 4pm – the ETA in London Heathrow.
5. The trip was uneventful and without further drama (thankfully) and we arrived London Heathrow at 10pm. For me thankfully, London was my final destination but for those who had connecting flights, Arik Air had messed up their plans.
In all, we spent a total of 12 hours onboard what should have been a 6 hour direct flight from Lagos to London Heathrow. Conversations on board revealed that re-routing without informing passengers had become common practice for Arik Air.
This was a most exasperating experience and I expect all passengers share this sentiment.
We would expect some reaction from Arik Air on this matter, the least being a refund of our travel fares.
Miss Olabopo Phillips
On behalf of ALL passengers aboard W3 0101 LOS – LON