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Opinions Sat, 11 Nov 2017

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Cecilia Dapaah please save your fellow Ghanaians from the rapacity of British Airways

It is amazing how one’s thoughts on a subject can be mirrored exactly by the thoughts of other people.

One reason why this concurrence of views occurs is that the facts relating to a particular viewpoint can be so glaring that only a numbskull would have the effrontery to dispute them.

The British newspaper, the Daily Mail, is not given to publicising the views of African heads of state. But on 21 April 2017, it devoted almost half a page to an article by its deputy finance editor, Hugo Duncan, in which criticism of British Airways by Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, was fully reported with approval.

Entitled “Now British Airways takes a bashing from Ghana’s President after storms over scrapping free snacks and cutting legroom” the article reported that British Airways had “come under fire from the new President of Ghana for the way it treats customers.”

The article continued QUOTE: In a major embarrassment for the airline, the African country’s leader criticised ‘the quality of the planes and the service’. He even accused BA of ‘taking us a little for granted’. The comments follow a barrage of complaints from travellers over poor service on the airline’s flights. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said British Airways seemed to be taking Ghanaians for granted because it was the only airline that flies daily from London to Accra.

“BA has been criticised after it stopped providing free sandwiches, snacks and drinks on flights lasting less than five hours. The policy could now be extended to long-haul flights for passengers in economy class. The airline has also come under fire over plans to cut legroom from 30 inches to 29 on some of its planes….The criticism from President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana is particularly embarrassing, however, as it came during a meeting with a BA executive about the airline’s plans to celebrate 80 years of flying to the country. The president, who has been in office since January, urged Paolo De Renzis, the head of Middle East, Africa and Central Asia sales at BA, to upgrade the quality of the services between Accra, the Ghanaian capital, and London.

‘There are complaints about the quality of the planes on the route and the service,’ said Mr Akufo-Addo. ‘In some quarters, there is a feeling that you are taking us a little for granted in the way in which we are receiving your services.’

Mr Akufo-Addo also said that passengers complained that flights to and from Accra now operate out of Terminal Three at Heathrow – not Terminal Five, the flagship terminal opened in 2008. Addressing Mr Renzis, he added: ‘When friends are speaking, I think we should speak frankly. I think I am the proper person to let you know what the pre-occupations of our people are.’ ….

Mr Renzis told Mr Akufo-Addo: ‘We have a long-standing relationship with the country. We are strongly committed to the market, and we appreciate your feedback. We will work very hard to improve the products and services to Ghana.’ BA flies once a day from London to Accra and once a day from Accra to London. The flights – on a Boeing 747 that carries up to 345 passengers – take longer than six hours. Return flights cost from £677. …

“The meeting in Ghana follows criticism from [BA] customers closer to home. British Airways came under fire earlier this month after it offered only £40 of compensation to an 87-year-old woman who sat in soaking wet clothes on a 13-hour flight from Los Angeles to London after an air hostess refused to let her go to the lavatory. UNQUOTE

When I read about the assurances British Airways had given to President Akufo-Ado, I laughed. You see, BA has a monopoly over direct flights to Accra, and has done so since we scrapped Ghana Airways. BA is not going to be the first capitalist organization to behave decently when it’s got its customers over a monopoly barrel. In fact, there is currently another invitation to Internet users to sign an online petition highlighting lapses in BA services to Ghanaian passengers. That’s a good SIX MONTHS after the pious promises to improve services made to President Akufo-Addo by the BA representative .

Our very intelligent Minister of Civil Aviation, Ms Ceciia Dapaah, would do well to move very fast to investigate ways of legally ending the BA monopoly over direct flights between Accra and London. She could invite airlines like Ethiopian Airlines, KLM and Air France to offer BA competition on the direct route between London and Accra. Direct flights are inter-governmentally granted on a reciprocal basis; that is, Ghana Airways could fly direct to London, while BA or, for a time, British Caledonian, could also fly direct to Ghana. With Ghana Airways defunct, our part of the reciprocity element is in abeyance. We can legally restore it by handing our rights to another country’s airline. If the British say No, we can also say No to BA.

DECLARATION OF INTEREST: BA has callously confiscated one London-Accra return ticket of mine and one single Accra-London ticket by invoking technical issues regarding my inability to fly at the time I had pre-booked. In one instance, I provided evidence that I was too sick to fly on the booked date. In the other, I changed the date of departure, but this was NOT recorded by BA staff and I was instead marked down as a “No-Show”. Which meant fare confiscated [again!].

ADVICE TO READERS: Never contact BA Customer Service if you have a fiery temperament that may subject you to a heart attack! They will toss you from section to section, stalling you for an hour or more, at your own [telephone] expense, till you get tired and hang up. Or blow up!

Columnist: dailyguideafrica.com

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