Aero Contractors: Getting Dangerously Drunk On The Draught Of High Praise

Mutti Yovbi


Aero Contractors, when they still operated charter flights, primarily to Warri and Port Harcourt, were the belle of air travel in Nigeria. For safety and customer care that was the airline to fly with. Starting to fly the Abuja route at the behest of the British Embassy and other members of the diplomatic community, brought a sigh of relief therefore. We all believed that Aero would teach the others a thing or two about how to run an airline and more importantly, how to deliver quality service. Not many quibbled at paying the $100 that was the ticket charge in 2000/2001, too many planes were dropping out of the sky and flights operated by other airlines felt like the Lagos molue had suddenly taken to flight

Alas, the fantasy is over. Gone are the days when you were sure of courteous service at all Aero service points, whether you are being served by ground crew, cabin crew or even at the parcel service counter by the luggage handlers. These days every two-bit individual wearing the Aero tag thinks that is enough excuse to talk down at the customer. Perhaps not their fault, they probably think us ninnies to pay the most expensive rates in the local air travel market with no added value really.

It is no longer news that you cannot get an Aero ticket out of Abuja without having to pay a little bit on top. With a few hours to go, all tickets are routinely sold under the counter while the ticketing clerks give facetious responses to requests to get on the next flight, especially if it is the last for the day. I wrote in once to complain but the response I got by email advised me to pick up my tickets on the internet to save myself such trouble in the future.

Recently the rules about check-in and boarding times were changed. True, each new ticket carried the information in small print, but the tickets were still enclosed in jackets that gave information in bold that the check-in counters closed 20 minutes before boarding and not the 40 minutes it was changed to. Poor passengers, catching the early flight out somehow missed the new information and when expectedly several arrived 25 minutes before on the day the new rule commenced, they were refused check-in. All except those who were willing and able to wheedle a boarding pass. The ones who chose to play by the book were turned away and had to pay the no-show charge.

Aero Contractors refused to take responsibility for this gaff and made every single passenger that missed a flight as a result pay N2,500=00 only to have bold signs printed and posted on all counters the following day.  They still did not highlight the change on tickets so that regular passengers become conscious but they stopped giving out the jackets, apparently because a customer threatened to sue based on that.

By the way Aero is the only airline that requires customers to be at the check-in counter at least 2 hours before a local flight. Their first flight of each day out of Lagos leaves at 6:45 a.m. meaning anyone wanting to catch that should have left home by 2:30 depending on where you live. Aero is reputedly punctual, one of their selling points used to extract money from non compliant passengers but carelessly ignored when it does not play in their favour.

The other day a pilot kept us sat out on the tarmac in broiling heat for more than an hour after boarding. Apparently, he wanted to disembark a couple of passengers that had blundered on to the flight instead of one going to Port Harcourt. There was no explanation or apology for the delay, instead the pilot made an announcement to the effect that anyone who did not like it was free to get off the plane. He also reminded passengers in very cross tones that it was the last flight for the day and that if passengers made a fuss he would refuse to fly to the destination airport, which had no night service. In that situation, an explanation would have sufficed for passengers suffering the discomfort of an aircraft that was not powered and was therefore very hot. Most were sweating profusely and the infants could not be calmed for the heat. The last thing we needed was a threat that we might have to return home, some of us to far flung reaches of Lagos, if we did not behave in a manner pleasing enough to our driver.

This new Aero attitude is reminiscent of another establishment, Citibank before they changed back into NIB and went disturbingly quiet. Like them Aero targets what they described as high net-worth individuals and others like me who are pretenders to the appellation.  They now deem themselves superior and better than everybody else, even the customers upon whom they rely for business success. Aero staff have become very condescending and will insult the customer at the littlest provocation. Yet these same people are not above being slipped a bribe for overlooking excess luggage. As a matter of fact, I was asked once to pay for lunch but chose instead to pay my excess luggage costs, because I am paranoid about airline safety and will not encourage anything to remotely jeopardise it.

Once you are seen as unbending and unyielding to subtle coercions and horror of horrors, if you dare to hold on to your rights,  Aero staff become very officious and ensure that you pay the maximum possible, both in terms of money and in terms of your time wasted being tossed from one counter to the next.

According to some check-in staff who were unable to show any written notices to the effect, Aero Contractors now require any passengers asking for a ‘fragile' tag to be stuck on their luggage to sign an undertaking that indemnifies the airline from any careless handling of said luggage. I explained in vain that a tag simply informs the baggage handler and should be a complimentary, no trouble service, easily available at all check-in desks. What I got was a round of insults for my effort, by both staff and a male manager called Uche. They even threatened to tear off a fragile tag I had stuck on from a previous trip and asked me to take back my luggage if I was not happy with their terms.

It appears that payment, and more payment and still more payment of charges is all that Aero Contractors is about these days. I was at the ticketing counter to reschedule my ticket for the second time, having missed my flight yet again, while sitting in the departure lounge. "Ah", I was told by the staff that offloaded me, "the public address systems are poor and people do not hear the announcements". I wondered then why, against stated policy, they chose to take my unaccompanied luggage, about which we had argued at check-in, to my intended destination.

I had another unpleasant surprise when I went to pay the No-show charge, it had been increased from N2,500 the previous week to N3,000 this week, without notice to the customer. As usual when I questioned this, the ticketing clerk imperiously informed me that all she was there to do was collect the payment from customers, not to answer questions.

There were several people there to pay no-show charges. I was the only one on my flight so I quietly accepted blame and paid up. The others were being clearly short-changed. They had been delayed at the check-in counter as a result of wrong information being passed by Aero Contractor Staff. The flight left without them in spite of their punctual arrival for check-in and all the supervisor on duty had to say was "better pay your no-show charge because you can't get a refund on the ticket". The elderly woman who dared to demand an apology was primly told by another staff, ‘you cannot blame me if you have problems madam, Aero did not make you miss your flight and I have personally done nothing to you I want to say sorry for'.

While waiting the more than twenty minutes it took to be attended to, a ticketing staff told yet another customer in very rude and loud tones, "you are lying we did not make you miss your flight. You cannot come and tell me what is not here, just pay your six thousand and be rescheduled for another flight otherwise forfeit your money" Nobody asked why so many people missed the same flight.

It sounds like a badly written script, but that is what Aero Contractors has become. A mockery of the values they once stood for and which attracted people to their stables.  Moving from Lagos through Benin, Warri, Port Harcourt and Calabar to Abuja, it is becoming clear that this is the Aero Contractor's new improved corporate policy. However, Nigerians are not as insensate as most service providers seem to think. I am beginning to see that there is no point paying that extra for poor service and a bit of snack thrown at you grudgingly by overrated cabin crew. You are meant to arrive at your meting calm and un-harried not seething from bad service and the rudeness of airline officials as they subject you to debasing treatment for your hard-earned naira.

My greatest pain however, is the lack of recourse to law, the complete absence of a regulatory body to whom the aggrieved passenger can report and hope to get redress.



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Re: Aero Contractors: Getting Dangerously Drunk On The Draught Of High Praise
Ayafa posted on 03-12-2009, 08:58:48 AM
I totally agree with you, i believe that each and every Nigerian deserve better treatment by all these people.There nust be good value for money in the service rendered, i want to think and suggest that we can form independent watchdogs where we can document these things in order to get concrete evidence against all these defaulters regarding bad service and uncouth staff and not widely publishing changes in pricing and services.When this is gotten we can then sue them to court or highliht them in the press to name and shame these companies.I believe others in the forum can join me in this quest for Watchdogs.These watchdogs will not only exist in the service industry, it will also watch the Police, Armed forces and Judiciary.It is glaring that we do not have security services again in Nigeria as that department has been left for Internet publications who have done a very good job in highlighting a whole load of attrocities committed by our so called "elite"

Notable is the recent publication that led to the resignation of LULU ENABAIFO, that publication was very apt and it hit the nail on the head.

A very big kudos to Saharareporters, Pointblanknews, Huhuonline, NigeriaVillage Square and all those individuals who are assiduosly working behind/ within the scenes to ensure that we have a Great country devoid of oppression and criminals in government.

I have digressed a bit within related issues, i want to conclude that Aero Contractors must be investigated and the findings published internationally, they must be named and shamed, this will enable them give better service.
Re: Aero Contractors: Getting Dangerously Drunk On The Draught Of High Praise
Abdulmumin posted on 03-12-2009, 09:12:06 AM
You have a point there.

Flew Aero last week too. I was originally billed to travel on Tuesday but had to reschedule to the next day. I bought my ticket via the internet and my ticket had a proviso that I could open my ticket (change my flight) provided I did so before the departure of the scheduled flight. Try as I might however, this excercise was impossible on the Aero site till the time lapsed. I had to eat humble pie and pay the requisite penalties (N6k in all!).

My return flight was also delayed for over an hour. I wondered aloud with a fellow passenger at the fact we passengers (mere mortals that we are) suffer penalties for showing up less than 40 minutes before a flight whereas the airline could delay forever and the maximum we get is a terse announcement!

Aside from this, I must confess though that I have had the fortune of meeting only courteous staff in my long affair with Aero.
Re: Aero Contractors: Getting Dangerously Drunk On The Draught Of High Praise
Nijalaw posted on 03-12-2009, 09:18:52 AM
QUOTE:
My greatest pain however, is the lack of recourse to law, the complete absence of a regulatory body to whom the aggrieved passenger can report and hope to get redress.


I feel your pain & it's sadly everywhere in our public & private sector.

Businesses that take your money & are meant to provide services act like vampires & we the hapless victims just idle by while our lifeblood ebbs away.

It's difficult to seek redress & even the employees know it & take full advantage with the active connivance of their management unless you are "man pass man" or "who is who" & the heads start to roll.

We also need not be in a hurry & feel it's a waste of time but just go the whole hog in seeking redress no matter what.

Part of the blame is in us also as we quickly roll over or meekly submit because we want to stay in the comfort zone. After all are Aero the only airline in the skies. If you can't stand the service or food in Mr Biggs there are others.
Re: Aero Contractors: Getting Dangerously Drunk On The Draught Of High Praise
Ikwerreman posted on 03-12-2009, 13:44:09 PM
QUOTE:
The other day a pilot kept us sat out on the tarmac in broiling heat for more than an hour after boarding. Apparently, he wanted to disembark a couple of passengers that had blundered on to the flight instead of one going to Port Harcourt. There was no explanation or apology for the delay, instead the pilot made an announcement to the effect that anyone who did not like it was free to get off the plane. He also reminded passengers in very cross tones that it was the last flight for the day and that if passengers made a fuss he would refuse to fly to the destination airport, which had no night service. In that situation, an explanation would have sufficed for passengers suffering the discomfort of an aircraft that was not powered and was therefore very hot. Most were sweating profusely and the infants could not be calmed for the heat. The last thing we needed was a threat that we might have to return home, some of us to far flung reaches of Lagos, if we did not behave in a manner pleasing enough to our driver.




Now this is hard to believe but not impossible.
Any way i stopped flying AERO sometime last year when i was making a lot of trips from PH to Abuja and to LAgos in preparation for my wedding.
I would rather walk to Kano than allow myself be insulted by any organisation that uses my money to survive no matter how little.
But that quote above? That was totally out of line
Re: Aero Contractors: Getting Dangerously Drunk On The Draught Of High Praise
GamineGirlie posted on 03-13-2009, 01:32:03 AM
I am quited surprised by this article
I have flown with Aero this month and before and i havent experienced any wahala, maybe the food. but the service was really ok, there was no delay, except a landing holdup at the Lagos airport.
I bought all my tickets online,even managed to snag the lowest fare possible, got to the airport an hour before departure and boarded on time, i really wonder where this is coming from, certainly new to me.
Re: Aero Contractors: Getting Dangerously Drunk On The Draught Of High Praise
Olamide posted on 03-13-2009, 08:08:36 AM
Aero was good and still good but a few rotten apples as they say are trying to spoil the whole basket. I had a nice experience when I flew with them from Abuja to Lagos in October 2006 but recently (January 2009), I flew with Aero from Lagos-Monrovia return. The Lagos-Monrovia leg was okay even though the cake they served us would not have pacified a 2 year old child but on my way back, an Aero Contractor staff at Monrovia airport charged me extra $20 US dollars for my two small carpets which he claimed was 'cargo' and does not count towards the 20 kg I was entitled to on the flight since I had a small suitcase that weighed only 10kgs and the two carperts weighed less than 9 kg. I demanded for an official receipt and what I got was something written on a blank sheet of paper that means nothing. All efforts to speak to the Station Manager was frustrated and I had to go into the departure hall to join the flight or else, I would have missed the flight and made to pay extra charges for 'not showing up'. The management has to do more to rein in these corrupt staff so that the good name of Aero wil not be tarnished.

On a more general note, client orientation is a word that does not exist in the lexicon of Nigerian business organizations. Staff are rude and treat customers like shit and they get away with it because the senior managers are also not aware of the importance of client orientation. I once entered a supermarket in Nigeria and asked for the price of a pack of Gillette shaving sticks. The small girl (around 20 years or so) first looked at me and since I had no pot belly and was not dressed in 'agbada' or three piece suit and forgot to spray some expensive cologne, she first asked me if I wanted to buy the said article or not before she woud deign to tell me the price. I was so much upset by her insolence and walked to the counter to report to her Supervisor who could only mumble something about people coming in most times to ask for prices but will not make any purchases. I walked out of the place and never went back.
Compare the attitude with what is obtained in other organizations in other countries. I remember I once complained about the services rendered by the Emirates flight crew on my way to Dubai (I called for service and it was delayed by a few minutes). Horrors! The whole flight crew including the Crew supervisor ( a Briton), came to my seat to explain the reasons for the delay and offered their apologies to me. I was also 'bribed' with a gift set before I disembarked and honour was satisfied all round. It was later I learnt that the whole crew would have been fired outrightly if I had complained officially of poor service to the management. This (Client orientation) is why Emirates has remained on top and growing while other airlines are going under.
Re: Aero Contractors: Getting Dangerously Drunk On The Draught Of High Praise
Lemeechi posted on 03-13-2009, 12:23:22 PM
I am not surprised by your experiences. One of the posts I made not too long ago also concerned my bad experience with Aero.

Somebody suggested reporting them to the Consumer Protection Council or such but I do not yet know how effective this body will be.
Re: Aero Contractors: Getting Dangerously Drunk On The Draught Of High Praise
Anioma777 posted on 03-13-2009, 17:52:42 PM
Make a complaint and if no satisfactory outcome after 28 days,boycott the airline. Afterall they are not the only airline. Sometimes you need to call their bluff. The problem with MOST Nigerians is that they do not REALISE THE COLLECTIVELY POWER they have to bring down or severely dent the profits of these companies local and foreign owned.

I have very little fondness for America, but one thing I RESPECT about them is that they know CONTINUOUS BAD SERVICE = LESS PROFITS = OUT OF BUSINESS.

I AM NO SALES MAN OR BUSINESSMAN BUT THE POWER LIES WITH THE CONSUMER. IF ONLY MOST NIGERIANS WILL GET THAT INTO THEIR THICK SKULLS THEY MAY START SEEING A LITTLE BETTER CUSTOMER SERVICE. UNTIL THEY CHANGE,GRIN AND BARE IT!!!
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