Long, true story and drama when British Airways flight 081 heading towards Accra was cancelled on Thursday

Long, true story. Drama. 

Flight was supposed to leave at 12:45pm. Boarding starts at 11:45am. Group 1 (as in those who get to sit behind the blue curtains, as if we are all not going to the same destination) is announced; but are made to sit behind the gate and wait, not board. Those privileged and pampered fat cats! 

After that, everyone waits. Why? We’re told there’s an ‘engineering problem’ with the plane. Then why did they call Group 1? And we could see the plane through the glass windows, and the engineering crew going back and forth. They moved their crane to and from the plane for at least 4 times.

At some point the captain himself came out to the boarding gate to explain what’s happening, at least twice.

Then the alleged engineering problem is announced as resolved and full boarding starts.  We boarded but we all just sat. Minutes turned into hours. No movement. They first claimed that for some undisclosed reason they had decided to disembark one passenger, which meant more delay because they had to take that passenger’s checked in luggage off. Someone unwell? Someone thrown off? Or maybe someone just didn’t show up after checking bags in? We accosted one of the crew in reflectors and who was walking up and down between the cabins. He told us that that was privileged information. Right to information is respected by BA, but on need-to-know basis, I surmised.

Still sitting. Waiting. Chatting. Wondering. I’m beginning to feel hungry. What’s going on. We accosted the guy again. He snottily informed us that ‘well, Accra flights are never on time.’ Someone remarked ‘at this rate we might be here for the whole day.’ The BA smart alec responds ‘try the whole week.’ Now, that was impolite and soooooo not nice. Or was he trying to be funny? But we dey.

Then that reflector-wearing flight attendant tried to make some announcement from the last cabin. And that’s when we all heard the commotion. Wow. Angry shouting, over the intercom. Announcer is shouting and passengers are shouting.

Apparently, there had been a huge kerfuffle between the crew and some passengers over the delay. Some passengers had demanded to be let off the plane. Attempts by other passengers to cool the agitated passengers down had precious little success. General commotion.

Then this same attendant who at some point claimed ‘this plane is mine,’ as if someone died and bequeathed him a fuselage, claimed that one of the crew had been ‘punched in the face.’ True? False? We didn’t know. Then we hear that, 6 or 7 crew members are on a mini-strike on board, demanding to be disembarked. They won’t go to any Accra again!

This owner of the plane and our new Lord and Master then tells us he has called the police. His tone is condescending. His attitude and announcements infuriated people even more. And true to his word about 10 fully-suited and armed police people boarded the plane. Wow. Arrest dey come inside? For what? BA, we just wanna go home!

But the police are calm. Nice even. Smiling while kitted to kill! They want everyone to settle down. We engaged some of them in chats. One looked left from right and whispered conspiratorially ‘it’s always British Airways.’

Someone in another cabin tries to tell this all-important plane owner that his attitude isn’t helping and that we just wanna go home. This capo di tutti owner of the fuselage in which we now dwelt and we’re encased, gets mad! He orders the police to throw the guy off the plane. Police listened but didn’t do it. We all got everyone to calm down.

But the 6 or 7 striking flight attendants still refused to work and insisted on being disembarked. So now the plane owner says they have to find a replacement crew before we could fly. Phone calls made. They couldn’t find a replacement, they claimed. Who wants to come work on a plane with police aboard?

So some 4 and half hours after boarding, we are all disembarked. Flight cancelled. Countless hours of passengers’ time wasted. Some checked in at 9 am! No British Airways flight to Accra that day, as announced to us by the Lord of the Plane, who now discloses he’s the Dispatch and something Manager. Big man things!

As we disembarked there are about 15 more police people lined up to ‘receive’ us. All appropriated kitted and armed for the riotous bunch that we had been announced as. What a guard of honour.

We are given hotel and transportation and £10 coupons, given the option to leave our checked in luggage or go with them and return the next day. Meekly, we take it and leave.

But we just wanted to go home, BA, that’s all. Reminds me of when Helen Yawson and I became impromptu performers at Terminal 3, singing and playing ‘we want to go home.’ Lemme find the video.

As I reminisced later, I noticed that no one had brought up Ghana Airways or claimed that this wouldn’t have happened if we had our own national airline. You see, you don’t go making such statements when the forensic report on your collapsed national airline should be packaged as-is, titled ‘HOW NOT TO RUN AN AIRLINE FOR…’, and then taught in business schools around the world.

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