Where is Nigerian Airways?

by Segun Akinyode

It was the night of June 29, 2007. The scene was Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi the capital city of the Republic of Kenya. The incident unfolded for about twelve hours. Flight KQ 436 was slated to depart Nairobi for Lagos at 1300hrs. There were more than two hundred passengers consisting of more than one hundred and fifty Nigerians. At the counter we were politely told that Flight KQ 436 would be delayed for five hours, meaning that we would take off at 1800hrs. To compensate for the delay we were given launch and the sum of one hundred dollars. We waited at the departure lounge. At some minutes to the promised hour, an official of Kenya Airways came to inform us that there would be further delay because an aircraft had broken down on the runway. Departure time shifted to 21000hrs. Anxiety was mounting; reactions were reaching fever pitch. Condemnation of Kenyan Airways by the majority Nigerian passengers was loud and clear: ‘We may not leave this place today,’ an elderly fellow in all black attire commented. I nodded firmly.

At some minutes to 2100hrs which is 9 pm Kenyan time, 7 pm Nigerian time, an official of the airline who called himself Anthony Makombe came and informed us, the anxious passengers, that our flight would leave at 2230hrs,10:30 pm Kenyan time, 8: 30 pm Nigerian time. The reality of Shakespeare’s ‘hell has no fury..’ came tumbling in its stark reality. Inconceivable and unprintable comments followed the unpalatable news.
‘I do not even know who asked these uncultured people to start this business in the first place when they know they are not prepared for it.’ a Reverend Gentleman scoffed.
‘Honestly, we are being cheated.’ I shouted from my position at the back of the departure lounge. Presently, a rotund lady wearing a pair of glasses sat down beside me and opened up. “We need to meet management of this airline” she breathed. I concurred by nodding and asked how to go about sorting management out. She stood up rested a palm on my shoulder and promised to be back. She went to another group and presented her case or so I presumed.

‘Let us stage a protest.’ One Nigerian shouted from the centre of the hall.

‘We need to make noise, these Kenyans will continue to ridicule us,’ another Nigerian said. Reluctantly, I unfastened my eyes from admiring the beauty of the landing and taking off of airliners of South Africa Airways, Swiss Airways, Quarta Airways, and Ethiopian Airways. Several Kenyan aircrafts joined the beautiful cacophony in the air.
Before I could position the last speaker, a very senior official of Kenyan Airways walked into the lounge and drew our attention. There was an absolute silence as eager Nigerian ears waited for the all- important information. The time was 2229 a minute from the time we were scheduled to take off. “Ladies and gentlemen. Our highly esteemed customers,” the official whose name I can’t readily recollect began, “KQ, Kenyan Airways is on her knees apologizing for the delay that must have culminated into anxiety, depression and despondency. The truth of the case is that the aircraft scheduled to take you to Lagos developed an engine problem.” A heavy sigh echoed through the lounge. The official allowed it to mutate into expectations before he continued. “Our engineers have been working on the engine. I am very sure by -” he paused to look at the face of his wrist watch, “2400 you should be in the air and on your way to Lagos.” I am very sure nobody in the lounge heard the last three words because the announcement practically threw us into a pained frenzy: 1300 to 2100 to 2230 and now to 2400. The official was barred from leaving the lounge. “I agree. I will stay here with you good people until you leave.” He said demurely. I turned my face back to the tarmac and watched admiringly as aircrafts belonging to different airlines of the world either landed or took off. “Beautiful stunts,” a thin voice breathed behind me. I turned my face around and regarded her. She was compactly small. Her petit frame was encased in a light red sweat shirt and a pair of faded blue jeans. She jerked her head sideways to dislodge a strand of hair dangling in front of her face.

‘Yes, admirable aerobatics’ I nodded. We both turned our heads in the direction of the tarmac as a massive Concorde of the Swiss Airline taxied towards us. When it appeared the huge contraption was about to hit the building we were in, it halted, the tickling of its engine was soothing.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” our heads jerked back; the Kenyan Airline official was on his feet again, glancing at his wrist watch. “Our engineers have finished repairing the engine. Your flight, KQ 436, will leave for Lagos any moment from now.” An audible sigh echoed in the room. Hand luggage were slung across the shoulder, wheeled or dragged towards the check in counter. It was at that time that the Reverend Gentleman asked the pertinent question: The engine of the aircraft developed a problem after a trip. It took your engineers more than seven hours to rectify the problem; you are now asking us to board the aircraft, a Boeing 737. The journey between Nairobi and Lagos is four hours and forty-five minutes; the altitude is thirty-five thousand feet above sea level. The man of God asked: “Suppose the newly-repaired but untested engine develops another hiccups in the air.’

The picture became clearer; and as to be expected several Nigerians vowed not to travel with the repaired plane. By then many officials of Kenyan Airline had come into the scene. Consultations were held, opinions were sought. Finally a decision was reached. Those who desire to travel with the aircraft should proceed with their boarding process, those who do not want would be housed for the night and an alternative plane provided the following day.

“You people are killers.”

“You do not have any respect for human lives.”

“You want to use us as guinea pigs.”

Another one hissed. He wanted to spit (an act that would have completed the disdain signified by the hiss) but restrained himself when he became conscious of his environment.

Those who chose to leave were already at the check in counter. It was the most crucial decision of my life. For more than three minutes I stood there unable to make up my mind. If the problem of the engine resurfaced at thirty-five thousand feet above sea level. A fleeting picture of my kids, my books, my siblings, my friends especially my unpublished manuscripts slowly crept before my subconscious. “Are you still standing there?” It was my female friend. She was moving past me to the counter. Finally, slowly like a zombie, I gave my boarding pass to the official and walked side by side with my friend towards the aircraft.

As we alighted Flight KQ 436 in Lagos several hours later, my friend said: “We should be grateful to Kenyan Airways.” I frowned and replied her, “Why should we? We were delayed for more that ten hours? Remember?”

“I do remember” she said and continued. “Do not forget that they kept their promise to get us to Lagos; they refunded a hundred dollars and above all they provided us with an aircraft; Kenya has a functional airline. When are we going to have NIGERIAN AIRWAYS?’

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Ekene ( Dublin) April 11, 2011 - 6:55 pm

`My good people of the great Nation of Africa NIGERIA, the hope is not all lost because i remember in those days it hardly to see a brand new aircraft flying in that African sub-region. But these days it is a thing of joy to say that the most growing air transport company in Africa now is (Arik air) which is based in Nigeria with new planes flying domestic to compare with some aircrafts in abroad. Then let us pray for sustainancy and consistancy for even more to come. God is at work, Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Crispin September 7, 2009 - 8:23 am

It’s a mystery i can’t understand.A copuntry as rich and blessed as ours?Why can’t we have our own national carrier.I’m always filled with shame when i see other national carriers from nations we’re supposed to be ‘helping’ and yet,there’s none from the ‘Giant of Africa’.I love my country,but am so ashamed of our aviation industry.However,i do remain hopeful!

OGUNGBESAN OLASHILE SAMUEL August 17, 2009 - 6:06 pm

My lecturer, u’ve alway been much and u’re more mucher. NigerianAirway is 100,000,000 feet below Kenya Airways.

Abiola Olawoye June 18, 2009 - 2:30 pm

God save Nigeria and restore her glory. This is worth weeping. Nations far below us economically are flying airlines whether standard or substandard but where is ours? Dead, long gone, at the moment….I am tempted to say iredeemable but I want to believe that there is still hope for Nigeria. God help Nigeria. Amen

Pekun Alexander October 17, 2008 - 8:33 am

Absolutely Correct.

Loretta July 21, 2008 - 4:08 pm

I read all the commentaries with tears in my eyes. Is there hope for my country. We are so blessed with brains that it is not even a shame anymore that we don’t have an airline, our roads are so deplorable, our civil security is too full of questions. In my days (wow – fancy me using such a feeble description when am only 52 – but there used to be the good old days) when it was taken for granted to boycott all other airlines and travel Nigeria airways, it was because we were not only the giant of Africa, we were competitive to the teeth – not anymore! Wither Nigeria – my people, my people, my people.

Samuel June 12, 2008 - 10:16 pm

great article. Nigerian Airways… a federal aviation ministry without an airline to call its own. We’ll just keep hoping

Mola Dedeigbo February 26, 2008 - 4:55 pm

…I think it is the best thing there is no NIGERIAN AIRWAYS. It would be nothing but a mass grave for all and sundry. I wouldnt risk boarding such airlines. Immagine what can happen… the mentanance group might decide to swarp a brand new Nigerian Airways engines for a old ones just for their own selfish reasons. A country where the value of life is nothing. – mola Dedeigbo ( Sydney)

Peter Wanyonyi December 19, 2007 - 5:35 am

Nice one. I flew with a whole group of Nigerians on a KQ flight from Dubai to Nairobi once, and they complained the whole time: the in-flight video selection was not good, the music selection was too much on the East African side, the food was too little, the beer was too light, the baggage allowance too low.

I agreed with many of their sentiments. But then one of them crossed line: a rotund lady occupying two seats right next to me launched into an attack on all things Kenyan. "They can't run an airline!" she hissed. "This airline is substandard!" she screamed. As a Kenyan, holding shares in Kenya Airways, this pissed me off mightily. I turned to her and asked "So, why didnt you fly Nigerian Airways, then?"

Her mumbled reply was drowned out by the appreciative laughing of the few Kenyans on board.

emeka July 24, 2007 - 10:03 am

Here nothing works!That is the scenario.Some retired officials of Nigeria airways are still waiting for the completion of their payoffs.A whole lot others–like my dad– have waited until now,they are in their graves still–perhaps–waiting.The transport system in Kenya is far above ours.Where indeed is Nigeria Airways?Is Virgin Nigeria ours?Series of questions Segun!Good work.

Rosie July 19, 2007 - 1:39 pm

Glad you made it back safe and sound. Where is Virgin Nigeria?

Owena July 19, 2007 - 5:59 am

I can't agree with your friend more. Staff at Nigerian Airways would have given you a filthy look and told you, “For where!” When confronted with the possibility of paying out for any accommodation or compensation following their incompetence in delaying a flight. My father (RIP) was always a staunch supporter of Nigerian Airways and used to travel with them when going home which was at least a couple of times a year. Well that support came to an abrupt end my father was left stranded in Lagos after travelling all day from Delta state to catch the flight because Nigerian Airways refused to fly for some unexplained reason. To cut a long story short, the poor man ended up in Accra where he was forced to shell out a further £600 ($1200) for a British Ticket back to the UK. And in case you have to wonder, he didn’t get a penny back from Nigerian Airways either.


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