Katy Perry’s ex, Brand Russell, is a funny man. Every so often, via his column in the Guardian UK, his intervention on politics and culture is always poignant and light hearted. Somewhere on the dark side of the internet, a writer observed that these days, it seems the apostles of change, are comedians as opposed to pop icons of the 90s: think Yoko Ono. think John Lenon etc. So, when you see Bank W taking on the role of the explainer-in-chief (apologies to Bill Clinton) albeit an eye witness on a drama that happened on an Arik Airline flight, maybe we ought to take it seriously. Afterall, Bank W is not a funny man.
Now, here’s a graphic recap from the horse’s mouth: “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.”
It’s hot enough in Nigeria these days, and then you couple that with a cabin whose doors have been shut, and a bunch of people locked inside that enclosed space… suffice it to say it escalated from bad to worse very quickly. The Captain made another announcement about how he’s ‘sorry for the delay, but it was due to the ground operations’, and that there was only one engine on and that was why the A/C could not be turned on yet. By now it was well past 12:30 and people were becoming extremely frustrated.
Parents had begun taking the clothes off their children, children were crying, one lady looked like she would faint. Still, there was no further update on when we would take off and when the A/C would come on. 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 to not turn on the A/C on their Aircrafts until take-off.”
From the forgoing, what comes out clearly is an Airline trying so hard to be Nigeria’s flag carrier yet saving cost in the face of the harsh operating environment. One better sound this emphatic note to Arik airlines, lest one is mobbed by over patriotic Nigerians who would like to call our attention to what we know that, “Nigerians take delight in bringing down their own”; that “Nigerians in diaspora, UK based, feel a sense of pride when they fly Arik”.
Waite a minute: what if Banky W remembered to enjoin Arik airlines not to be pretentiously world-class? What if the airline becomes a no ‘bullsh*t’ budget airline for Nigerians by Nigerians? The brand promise is to safely fly Nigerians from point A to B and strip it off all distracting luxuries. In fact, it can be so down to earth that part of its emotional selling proposition, in its communication, is to cheekily take a swipe at those everyday needless airline luxuries in a way that will put a smile of customer’s face and pocket.
This way, Bank W would have changed the business model of the airline into a more authentic brand that Nigerians can be proud of. And the unintended consequence of this route, if taken, would be for foreigners to know us by our notoriously quirky but truthful no frills airline: this will help, even if it is a little, portray us as people who say what we mean and mean what we say. This value, you may agree, is in short supply these days when we top the chart on corruption/dishonesty index. Airline diplomacy anyone?
Oh my goodness, you wouldn’t believe what came to mind just now. A naughty campaign by Hugo Gstrein and Patrick Tamisiea, my alma mata at the Miami Ad School Hamburg (sorry I had to sneak this in). Since Ryan air is an international budget airline that people always complain about. Said the brand in its new campaign: “Well, with prices this cheap, shut the f*ck up and deal with it, because beggars can’t be choosers.’’
For choosing to switch off the Air Condition before take-off and other service challenges, Banky W may well ask: "Dear Arik air, what’s on your mind?"