-With Benn Ackah
Riddle riddle! What has wings, carries people, crosses deserts and oceans but can never fly without problems?
Riddle riddle! Riddle. What has two wings, carries people, crosses deserts and oceans, probably stops over some familiar countries, but never can fly without problems?
Got the answer yet? Never mind. Airplanes. Yes, you heard right, a-e-r-o-p-l-a-n-e-s. But not all planes are like that. Or is it?
To be frank, my concern is with planes, air travel, and to and fro Africa. To be more specific I am concerned, for now, with some select airlines that ply their trade to and from Ghana. No names are necessary for now save Ghana International Airlines (GIA). These airlines, either old or new, defunct or still working, chartered or scheduled, Boeing or Airbus, 'luxury' or no-frills, reconditioned or 'home-used', more weight allowance or not, company-owned or country-owned, Arabic, Ghanaian, Nigerian, British or alien owned, these people have got to take passengers seriously.
Since the very first day that some of these airlines started plying the Ghana route, it seems they vowed never to do anything right. For example, lateness, rude inflight attendants and a litany of other complaints plagued GIA's maiden flight. One would have thought that GIA would take cue from past mistakes by their predecessor and try to do things differently but no, ''we're not in competition with the other 'trotros'', it seems was their amen when GIA launched its services.
So what make these airlines so bad to deserve mention in this column? Well, if you have not heard about them already I will tell you.
Instead, I will rather repeat a list of words you could use to form your own impressions about them. Lateness, rude staff, dirty aircrafts, unworkable facilities in planes, bad food, bad services, luggage delays, luggage missing, delays, change of flight days without informing passengers, stinking toilets, broken seats, tight seating, no leg rooms, unfriendly hostesses, names not on airline travel lists, and so on and so forth.
These are just but a few of the not-so-bad grievances people have had against these airlines. Some of the worst could only be whispered and not spoken aloud.
Although, these problems have been around for some time no one wants to take the blame or responsibility for them. Try and talk to the travel agents who sold you the ticket and they will tell you it's the airline operators' responsibility. And they are right. Try and talk to the operators and the problem is, there is no one to talk to at all. The situations is like cat and mouse play.
Inasmuch as I sympathise with the agents, there is a degree of responsibility to ensure that travelers are sold tickets to airlines that meet international air travel requirements.
Until my recent travel to Ghana, I had taken complaints about these airlines for granted but not again. To give you a picture of what others have gone through before, and what some might probably have to go through still, please read on.
My managing editor said it was okay. My publisher's wife did not give paean about them, though she recommended it. My wife was skeptical. I was unsure but my travel agent (good man he is) told me some (please remember SOME) barefaced facts about traveling with the airliner I finally decided to take. "You'll get more kilos with them", he said as a matter of fact. "It's okay but you only have to do some transiting", he would warn me.
Ladies for (sorry and) gentlemen, I will never take that airline again. Please, do not get me wrong. My agent is fantastic, the airline pilots are very good, the hostesses and hosts, I'm not too sure about them but I am weary of some of their planes.
See, what my agent did not tell me was that delays would happen big time. That, the chartered liner for the second leg of my travel to Ghana (or first leg back from Ghana) will probably break down. I do not blame him. How is he expected to know this? Well, it has apparently done so and continues to be repaired on the tarmac often.
On my return flight back to Gatwick through two African countries, a journey expected to take some twelve hours; I counted a whole day before getting back to my destination. Why? Because the flight was delayed plus had to be repaired on the tarmac before our own eyes and we were asked to fly with a plane like that? Well if you had no choice like I did, you call your wife and kids, talk to your mum, and probably say the Lord's Prayer throughout the flight.
This definitely makes the work of an air travel agent very difficult because of the unnecessary hassle they get from passengers but they should also bear a bit of stick.
Anyway, most of the complaints I've mentioned above did happen on my airline but my major concern is about a faulty plane. Not once, not twice or thrice but often times is definitely putting the lives of people at risk.
It is worth mentioning here that all these airlines do make a difference though. They make traveling to Ghana cheaper and frequent, but to put it euphemistically, what oughtta be done have gotta be done! Safe air traveling, good services and professionalism are what we are calling for. Probably, what we want best is of the first option. If you would not give us good food, at least, take us home safely.
Ps: And to you passengers too, please, get your acts together. Some are equally rude, difficult, insolent, impatient, troublesome, eat too much, drink too much and p**s too much. Remember that the plane is not your castle in the air. The pilots and air hostesses and hosts are human like you and probably do want to get home to their wives and kids or families as you do. Oh! And whenever things go wrong don't go chasing the travel agents all the time because theirs is to get you a booking on that plane. They are only agents and not the owners.
Together, let's all try to make air travel a pleasant journey.