British Airways (BA) has apologised to Nigeria over the maltreatment meted out to Nigerian passengers at Heathrow Airport in London five weeks ago.
A statement issued in Lagos on Thursday by BA Media Consultant, Ademola Adedoyin, expressed “regret (for) the upset that the events onboard the BA75 to Lagos on 27th March have caused in Nigeria.
“We have made it clear that the decision to offload passengers was made in consultation with, and on the advice of, the United Kingdom police; and the sole aim of this decision was to ensure the safety of our passengers, aircraft, and crew.
“Offloading passengers is not a decision that is taken lightly, and is a rare occurrence. However, the disturbance on board the BA75 service to Lagos on Thursday 27th March was a very serious incident which required the presence of 20 uniformed police officers to regain control of the situation.”
Adedoyin added that the commotion made it dangerous to travel on the aircraft.
“Given the level of disruption on board the plane as it was preparing to depart, it was not possible to pinpoint which passengers were the most involved. In addition, our crew was subjected to both verbal abuse and physical assault which, in the confined space of an aircraft, can be a particularly serious issue.
“Hence the police decided, with the agreement of the captain, that it would be unwise to let all the passengers travel on the aircraft as their behaviour could pose a safety risk.
“Of the 133 passengers offloaded following the disturbance 64 re-boarded the flight before take-off. Those offloaded were of various nationalities, including British and American passengers. There was also a mix of nationalities among those who flew, including Nigerian passengers.
“The arrest and detention of one of the passengers involved was a police decision, and is not something that British Airways can comment on. The remaining offloaded passengers were offered overnight accommodation where appropriate, and were re-booked on alternative flights.”
Adedoyi said BA is working with the Nigerian Government to ensure the high standard operations between Nigeria and the U.K. continues.
“British Airways has a long and proud history of serving Nigeria and its people. For over 70 years the airline has flown from the UK to Nigeria, connecting the country to the rest of the world.”
The passenger who spoke up for other Nigerians and the deportee on the flight, Ayodeji Omotade, and others had asked BA to apologise, and to withdraw the six months’ ban on him by the airline.
Outrage over the incident made President Umaru Yar’Adua to order an investigation by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
(News item from FaceBook posting by Making A Better Africa group)