Where did I go? Abuja. I went to Abuja for business last week and was a part witness to the Air Peace flight from Port Harcourt that hard-landed at the MM1 airport.
No, I wasn’t on the said plane. I was in another Air Peace flight from Abuja back to Lagos that same afternoon.
The first signs of trouble came after our pilot, who had earlier announced we would be landing in Lagos in 15 minutes, announced that there was some sort of emergency on ground at MM1 and so we would not be able to land after all but hover until we were cleared for landing.
And so, we began to hover…
After that announcement, I looked around and saw a few fretful faces.
When on international flights, announcements like these do not bother me much. But within the Nigerian air spac, especially given the flimsy manner we handle safety and human lives around here, I was anxious.
I felt my palms go clammy. My armpits began to itch. My thoughts ran wild. I virtually ran after these errant thoughts, caught them and tried to muffle them as best as I could… A few strays cried out
I hope the fuel won’t finish mid-air before we are cleared for landing…
Aww, come back here, you careless thoughts!
I tried to concentrate on the book I was reading. But I didn’t read beyond a few paragraphs. After about 20 minutes or so, we were cleared for landing…Only then did I realize I had been clenching my butt!
Tale of two Air Peace flights
The pilot informed us he’d been directed to land at MM2 instead of MM1 as the ’emergency’ hadn’t been completely evacuated. Now, from MM2, we were to join the long queue of planes on the runway that probably had also been redirected or were preparing for takeoff.
Okay. So, you know how passengers scramble from their seats, pull out their luggage from the compartments above and impatiently queue in the aisle as soon as a plane touches ground?
Yeah. Passengers were suddenly in a mad rush to get down at this point. They didn’t notice there were no stair trucks that normally would be heading towards the aircraft. They weren’t even thinking about the fact that we were still on the runway and the plane hadn’t fully come to a halt.
Indeed, they weren’t thinking that perhaps the reason we were being delayed may just be for our safety…Yeah, I know what I said about safety earlier. Everyone was jostling to wedge a bag or foot on the narrow aisle.
The pilot’s voice came up again, advising passengers to return to their seats as the ground crew were still busy with the said ’emergency’. A few passengers heeded. However, the majority remained standing, grumbling at the airline for wasting their time.
At this time, a female passenger had put on her phone and was reading out the news about a ‘crash landed Air Peace plane’, being the reason for the ‘emergency’ and delay.
That’s when all the drama started. Pronto! A man in the business class section began to demand to be let out of the plane immediately! He said he was ready to walk from the runway to the building housing the arrival hall!
Drama and anxiety unlimited!
I took a quick look through the window. There were no buildings in sight.
‘They will think you’re a stowaway and arrest you immediately,’ one passenger responded from the back.
There was a general mild irritation at this outburst. We knew the man had underestimated the drop from the flight down to the ground. He had also underestimated the long trek from the runway to the arrival hall. Indeed, he had underestimated a lot of bare-faced facts.
Although another gentleman tried to explain these facts to him, it was to no avail. The rest of us hid our nervous laughs as we debated the safety of the passengers aboard the ‘crashed airplane’.
Mind you, we still referred to it as a crash, not hard landing.
Then a Chinese man barged his way forward, insisting he also wanted to get down. Since we were still on the MM2 runway, he said he’d called his driver to come meet him at MM2. Again, he was asked to return to his seat but he refused. He claimed he was already late for an appointment.
Every one reminded him they also had appointments. His repeated response was firm; ‘What your business this is?’
I am guessing he meant they should mind their own business.
They did after a while…
Then the quietness was broken by a white man. He was among those that refused to go back to their seats. This man just began to laugh. He bubbled with so much joy his bulk in his tight fitting suit rocked from side to side.
‘What is doing this one?’ my neighbour asked.
Air Peace as ‘intelligent airline’
As soon as he got our attention, he said, ‘I’ve got so many experiences with this airline.” Then he laughed some more, before describing this particular one as a ‘brilliant experience’.
He repeated: ‘This is just brilliant, just brilliant.’
The way he said it made me vex. It was derogatory. What is ‘brilliant’ about a 50 minutes flight turned 1hr 40 minutes and counting?
I wanted to tell him – That’s hate speech, oyibo! Then again, I knew he too was being careful.
He told us Air Peace was a ’very intelligent airline’. But at this point, I had become righteously indignant with him.
Only us Nigerians have the right to curse one another. No one else had that right. Just like a black man calling another black man nigger. No white man has the right to or it’ll be racist. Pure and simple!
By ‘intelligent’, he clearly meant dumb or stupid or something not nice. I became offended and grumbled out loudly so he could hear me.
‘So it means they don’t have mishaps like this in his country?’
Anyway, he ignored me and continued. He said the previous week, he was in Maiduguri and his Air Peace flight booked for 6pm was delayed and by 11pm, passengers were eventually told there was no more flight for that day. They were told to come back the following day for the 9 o’clock flight back to Lagos. He said nothing was said to appease nor were they put in hotels to sleep over.
At this piece of information, a few of us hissed and cursed Air Peace’s negligence.
Scant regard for human lives!
The white man man continued. He said the following day, passengers had assembled at the airport for the supposed 9 o’clock flight. Only to be delayed till after 3pm when it eventually took off!
‘Wonderful people here’, he said, laughing again and rocking from side to side.
Uncle, this your story is not funny. It’s sad and annoying and irresponsible and rude and pitiful….For Air Peace and for us as a people.
I felt the sting of the airline’s rudeness. Maybe arrogance even, because there are no better alternatives. I felt ashamed that Arik and Dana were also guilty parties to treating passengers shabbily. Hours of delays and cancellations with nothing to compensate passengers for.
But then again, I remember we were so treated in Turkey.
I recall a few friends discussing other global airlines. These things happen, only not on the reckless scale such as ours.
And do you know what’s worse? According to a passenger on board the ‘crash-landed’ flight, they were not evacuated until 52 minutes after the ‘crash landing’!
What if the plane had caught fire upon landing? They would have been burnt alive even AFTER they had survived the landing!
Only in Nigeria would you experience such flagrant disregard for human lives.