On April 7, a 10 minutes footage from a camera phone surfaced online where singer Banky W and other passengers of Arik Air flight from Lagos to New York were captured inside a plane for hours.
Yesterday Banky W recounted what really happened during protest at Arik Air plane.
More after the cut...
The flight was scheduled to take off at about 11:50pm on March 31, 2014. Boarding was completed on time, and all the passengers settled in their seats and prepared for the flight to begin. However, there seemed to be a delay in operations because although the ground crew had exited the aircraft and the cabin doors were shut, we weren’t moving. The pilot announced that there was a small delay in the ground crew operations on the plane, and that we should be patient as the flight would depart ‘in a few minutes’.
The problem was, the air conditioning was not turned on. Midnight soon passed, and there was still no A/C, neither did it feel like we were going anywhere, anytime soon. Passengers were vigorously fanning themselves, asking for water and ice from the crew, and doing whatever they could to stay cool and hydrated. The reality was that the heat in the plane was quite frankly unbearable.
Parents had begun taking the clothes off their children, children were crying, one lady looked like she would faint. Almost an hour into this debacle, many passengers became justifiably irate. We were all drenched in sweat, burning hot, and it was hard to breathe properly. Now, let me interject here to say this… I believe that up till now, it was actually Arik’s policy not to turn on the A/C on their Aircrafts until take-off.
Just before the passengers surged into my section up front (I was in seat 1A), I actually saw the pilots pull one foreign air hostess into the cockpit and lock the door behind them. I suspect that either the A/C may have been on in the Cockpit, or that he was concerned for his and her safety because the shouting from the back indicated that people were in a state of panic and riot.
Either way, I thought his actions came off as incredibly ignorant and prejudice against the Nigerian staff (who were doing their absolute best to try and calm people down), and against the very Nigerian passengers who he was employed to take care of. As the people surged up front and started banging on the cockpit door, the Captain made yet another announcement that people should be patient for a few more minutes, and of course it had been well over an hour so none of the irate passengers were having it. He also said that if people did not go back to their assigned seats, he would have to call the police. Of course this did nothing but provide further incentive for people to be angry, frustrated, irate… you name it.
By this time, the entire section around my seat was filled with screaming passengers, banging on the cockpit door and yelling at the Nigerian Staff who were still pleading with us. I actually feared for the safety of the Air Hostesses, and for the equipment on the plane; which is why I stood up at that point to try and calm them down.
Banky W aboard an Arik Air flight bound for Lagos
My reasoning was that I’d been on enough Arik flights to know that this was their policy, so I didn’t feel like the plane was not fit to fly. I suggested that seeing as we’d already waited that long, we give them another 5-10 minutes, because if we disrupted the flight or caused damage, they would have to kick us off and begin the entire process from start. Some of the passengers calmed down after I spoke, while some were just intent on fighting or doing something drastic to express their displeasure… (one very short angry man actually tried to take out his anger on me, but I felt bad for him so I didn’t let that escalate).
In any case, soon after that, the Captain announced he was beginning take-off procedures, and I felt the A/C come on. This further helped me make my case to the passengers, and most of the people started going back to their seats. What further shocked me at this point was that the Captain actually started taxiing the plane on the runway, while people were still making their way back to their seats. This seemed to be both dangerous AND illegal, in my opinion.
Many news agencies, upon seeing me in the footage online, have contacted me asking for details of what happened, and my opinion on the incident. My thoughts are as follows: it was an avoidable disaster, and one that could have ended up much worse for the staff and equipment of Arik Air. This policy of enclosing passengers within a cabin with no A/C is senseless; I suspect that it saves them some money because they don’t need to rent/buy ground power units to power the planes while they finish their operations, but it is unfair, cruel and inhumane to the clients of the airline to subject their comfort and even health to such conditions, all in the name of cutting costs.
- Banky W