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Opinions Tue, 23 Jan 2018

All hail 'Bedbug airways!'

Did you hear about what just happened to British Airways?

Their information technology system hasn't crashed again, has it? When it crashed the last time, half of my family was unable to fly to join the other half in celebrating my birthday.

Yes, I remember that. Didn't your son, his wife and daughter, have to spend 24 hours in Dubai before they could come to Accra?

Yep. In the meantime, they had checked into BA, whose broken-down computer system had, of course, promptly lost their luggage!

You just can't believe it, can you? But it makes sense. Some airlines are managed by people, mockingly known as “bean-counters”, who 9are under tremendous pressure to make profits at all costs. And so, they cut corners?

Yes. One British Airways passenger complained that there was no toilet tissue in the toilet! Can you imagine having to go and sit beside someone, when you know you may be exuding a pong? Scent no oooooh!

And one old lady was refused permission to use the toilet and she wetted herself into her seat!

Well, you won't believe it but British Airways has done it again to Ghanaians!

Again!???

What?! They didn't feed them plastic biscuits and tepid Milo?

NO! But let me read the story to you:

QUOTE: British Airways “bedbug infestation scandal on Ghana flight goes global” as “the world's biggest newspapers” covered the story, shaming the transportation giant.

Bedbugs?

Yes!

Nkrokosuo?

Yes! Yes!

The New York Times, the UK Times, the London Daily Mail, [and]others reported that: “A British Airways flight to Ghana was grounded ... at London’s Heathrow Airport for four hours after bed bugs were found crawling on the seats. The cabin crew had walked out minutes before the scheduled take-off when they discovered the bed bug infestation.

“A replacement plane was found and passengers were able to continue their journey only some four hours later...The revelation has scandalized and embarrassed the British firm while hurting their business opportunities...

“The British firm's flagrant disregard for Ghana is well-documented and the latest scandal comes just three months after Ghanaians forced the airline to change [the] aircraft [it uses on its route] to Ghana, over its poor quality and bad services.”

So? bedbugs on the plane!

Yep!

BA = Bedbug Airways?! Yep!

But if the cabin crew could discover the bedbugs, why couldn't the people who were supposed to clean the aircraft do so?

It depends on their efficiency, doesn't it? Efficiency costs money! And the “bean-counters” had probably utilised the services of a “low-cost” firm! Hmm – it's not the first time bedbugs had feasted on passengers on a BA flight, you know? Whaaaat?

Yes! According to the Daily Express newspaper, QUOTE:

A British Airways passenger was bitten '150 times' by bed bugs in business class! [The passenger] complained to the airline after experiencing bed bugs during a long haul journey from Kent to Cape Town, and receiving 150 bites as a result... British Airways passenger [Mick Gregory] woke up to find blood spots on his pillow. [The] next day …. he began itching. He said he was soon covered with up to 150 itchy bites ...“A British Airways representative [told the] Express: “We have been in touch with Mr Gregory to apologise for his experience”. UNQUOTE

The incident of the bed bugs discovered on the British Airways flight to Ghana evoked a strong reaction from Ghana's Minister of Civil Aviation, Mrs Cecilia Dapaah. QUOTE: She lambasted officials of British Airways over ... their poor treatment of Ghanaian passengers, despite enjoying [a] monopoly over the Ghana-UK direct flight market for many years. .... Mrs Dapaah [said]:

“It is very disheartening that British Airways that has had a clear monopoly of direct flights to London, will treat Ghanaian this way...For your own staff to walk away from it because they felt threatened by the bed bugs, is not good enough,” she told the airline's officials at a meeting in Accra.

But Ghanaians are unimpressed. For no less, a person than the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, had complained, last year, to BA officials who paid him a visit, over its treatment of its Ghanaian customers. Promises were made to him by airline officials, but – without any effect whatsoever.

Ghanaian aviation experts say that the only thing that will make BA buck up is stiff competition. That requires the Minister to invite Airlines with a good reputation, such as Ethiopian Airlines or Emirates, to explore the possibility of making use of the reciprocal arrangement between Ghana and the UK, by which Ghana Airways used to fly direct to London. Since Ghana Airways was allowed to become extinct, British Airways has cleaned up income on the route through Ghana's bilateral agreement with the UK.

“We are sitting ducks now,” said one of the experts. “Why should they bother to treat us well when they are guaranteed the income, no matter what they do?”

I have myself suffered from appalling treatment by British Airways Customer Service, both in London and Accra. (See 1. http://www.myjoyonline.com/opinion/2017/april-18th/british-airways-are-you-listening.ph and 2. https://www.modernghana.com/news/815943/cecilia-dapaah-please-save-your-fellow-Ghanaians-from-the-ra.html

What happened to me was this: on the first occasion, I was taken ill just before I flew from London to Accra. I phoned BA and was told to get a doctor's certificate to indicate that I was too ill to travel. Despite being sick, I managed to send BA the certificate. But it was never acknowledged and when I got well and I wanted to travel, BA Customer Service subjected me to a long series of frustrating calls (at my expense) during which they claimed to be unable to trace either my doctor's certificate or at one stage, even my ticket!

I was angry at this straight-forward theft of my money, but when I needed to travel to Accra, I swallowed my pride, bought another ticket and came with BA.

However, I couldn't travel on the day specified for my return and phoned the Accra BA office to reschedule my flight. But when the day I had rescheduled to fly arrived, BA told me that I had NOT rescheduled my flight and had been put down as a “no-show” on the original day of departure!

“No-show”? I have used more than six passports travelling the world, and I would allow my money to be confiscated because I wouldn't show up for a flight? And with my previous experience of BA rapacity so fresh in my mind?

But because I had phoned to reschedule the flight, it was my word against BA's official, who told me she could not trace any record of my having rescheduled the flight!

Now tell me: how can I prove that I had phoned them? It is basically the same situation as my being unable to prove that I had sent BA a doctor's certificate at the time I hadn't been able to fly, due to illness. All you need is bad faith: they don't record your approach to them and because you had no idea they would seek to rob you, you wouldn't take any precautions. It is maddeningly frustrating.

Yes, we allowed Ghana Airways to fold up, and now, even the best of us are treated like rubbish by BA – especially those of us who don't want to break our journey by stopping en route somewhere other than our destination.

But no condition is permanent, is it? One day, BA will learn that it does not pay to be so profit-hungry that one's nefarious practices earn one the unenviable name, “BA = BEDBUG AIRWAYS"!

Columnist: Cameron Duodu