British Airways – a Customer Care nightmare for Nigerians
By NETA NWOSU
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Photo: Sun News Publishing
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Philip Kotler wrote in his “Marketing Insights from A-Z” that “American Airlines treat customers differently beyond assigning different size seats and different cuisine. Passengers who have accumulated millions of miles get Executive Platinum Advantage treatment: they enter shorter line at checking, board earlier, get frequent upgrades, and receive surprise gifts such as interesting books and crystal Tiffany glass wares”.
What does British Airways give its Nigerian Customers? Disdain; disrespect for a high ranking monarch; insults; police handcuffs and detention; life ban from travelling on its airlines; exploitative airfares; etc.
The March 27 incident on Lagos bound British Airways flight BAO75 which culminated in the offloading of 135 passengers, mainly Nigerians, showed how mean the airline management could be towards Nigerians.
The incident also brought to the fore once again the kind of maltreatment that Nigerian passengers suffer in the hands of British Airways crew and the high contempt, which its management have for our people.
What happened on that faithful day should be seen as an inevitable climax; an eruption of a long bottled up customer care mismanagement that has since been taken for granted by the airline authorities.
The incident was sparked off when Nigerians aboard the British Airways flight protested the brazen brutalization of a fellow Nigerian who was being deported on the same flight. The astonished passengers including Ayodeji Omotade who probably had more courage to challenge the Nigerian’s tormentors, were ordered off the plane. Mr. Omotade, for speaking up, was later arrested, handcuffed, detained, lost his pounds sterling, banned for life from travelling on British Airways and finally charged to court. Did you just say it’s an overkill? Mind you Omotade was a paying passenger. He was not travelling free of charge.
Naturally, the incident elicited an outrage among Nigerians in Diaspora who called for an international boycott of the airline. Even the initially indifferent government of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was miffed enough to issue a statement compelling the disdainful airline and its country’s diplomatic mission in Nigeria to render an explanation of what happened.
But just when the furore was beginning to die down, the same airline pulled the gangway from the feet of non other personality than His Eminence, Alhaji Said Abubakar Ill, the Sultan of Sokoto.
The Sultan and his entourage had arrived earlier at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, to board a British Airways flight.
They waited at the VIP lounge for boarding to commence. When it finally did, the monarch was shut out in contempt before he could make his way to the flight.
The Sultan’s offence was that he did not subject himself to the humiliation of scampering along with other passengers, ticket and boarding pass in hand, to queue at the boarding point, like the rest. Would they do that to their Queen or a Saudi Prince?
One could only see in this act, an attempt to embarrass and perhaps teach the sultanate royalty a British Airways lesson in customer care, so that another day he would be the first passenger on the queue waiting for the crew to arrive from their hotel. What an insult!
Anyway, the Sultan has made it very clear that he will never travel by British Airways again even if he was given a free ticket. And that should be the attitude of Nigerian travellers now that its obvious the kind of peculiar customer care the airline has in store for them.
Even though the airline and the British High Commission have reportedly tendered apologies it still does not cancel the fact that both of them operate a deliberate policy to humiliate their Nigerian Customers and Clients.
As a matter of fact the degradation of the Nigerian traveller starts at the High Commission where there are no facilities put in place to manage teaming visa applicants inspite of the huge money made from them.
After the grueling ordeal at the High Commission they now move on to the cruel hands of the British Airways crew who treat them like some bunch of beggars who’ve been granted free passage and meals aboard their flight to UK. It is simply despicable!
One thing is very clear in all this though. Apologies or no apology; British Airway already has a psychological orientation – call it a mindset towards its Nigerian customers. This we saw in the way they treated a whole Sultan not minding that they just had a major fray with Nigerian passengers not too long ago. Humiliating the Nigerian customer has become an unconscious customer care reflex with British Airways. If you doubt it, try another route say London-New York. You ‘ll discover that the same monster crew we know on London-Lagos route automatically transform into guardian angels eager to suffocate their passengers with impeccable customer care and friendliness.
This is inspite of the fact that the Nigerian passenger pays much, much higher for a shorter journey than the New York passenger who pays much less for a farther distance. Yet the Nigerian is the one that gets the butt of British Airways Customer Care. Which makes one wonder what on earth has happened to the economics doctrine of offering value for money paid, because anything to the contrary tantamounts to fraud.
British Airways authorities have accused Nigerian passengers of being difficult to manage as they carry more luggage than they are entitled. They also claim that Nigerians don’t queue properly; they hold conversations in loud tones thereby creating noise; they don’t respond to directives, and all that crap. British Airways easily forgets that it’s running a business and we are talking about its most profitable route for goodness sake. The Nigerian traveller is good enough to be charged exploitative fares, but he is not good enough to express himself or demand value for his money. If British Airways thinks that Nigerian passengers are too troublesome, why don’t they resign the route and face Mauritania or Chad. Rubbish! The airline loves the money and profit but they don’t want to earn it. If a Nigerian Company did this, it would be interpreted as a 419 of sort.
The British are supposed to be teaching us about customer care but there they are with one of their prominent international companies turning customer care on its head. For avoidance of doubt, customer care, we all know, involves putting all systems in place to maximize the customers’ satisfaction with your business. It should be a prime consideration for every business as profitability depends on keeping your customer happy especially in a competitive environment.
The L-L. Bean Company credo is hinged on the customers’ strategic role in the survival of any business. It states that, “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us – we are dependent on him. He is not an outsider in our business he is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him… he is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so”.
It is obvious that it is because Nigerian travellers lack veritable alternatives that they have continued to accept the humiliating treatments from British Airways. And the airline knows too that the traveller has a few viable options like Virgin Nigeria,Bellview and a couple of others.Which can hardly cope with the passenger traffic. This why British Airways can afford to call the nations bluff and persist with their peculiar corporate attitude towards Nigerians.
In the light of this reality it behooves our government to take practical steps (through her regulatory authorities) to jar British Airways into realizing that the Nigerian customer is the king no matter the lowly impression the airline may have of him or her.
A truly elected government of the people owes them a duty to strongly intervene in situations like this to save them from further humiliation and maltreatment in the hands of an airline company that exploits them financially and emotionally. And where the airline is recalcitrant, the government should be resourceful enough to make an alternative arrangement for the Nigerian traveller.
The above article is culled from The Sun Newspapers of Nigeria http://www.sunnewsonline.com/webpages/features/marketing/2008/aug/20/marketing-08-20-2008-001.htm