The Nigerian Consulate in Atlanta has responded to the Ethiopian Airlines ticket “scalping” incident in Houston, denying wrongdoing and dismissing reports concerning the flight.
Nigerian Consulate: No Scalping, No Standbys On Ethiopian Airlines Repatriation Flight From Houston To Lagos.
Earlier this week I shared a story circulating in Nigerian media about a repatriation flight gone very wrong. The story centered on a chartered Ethiopian Airlines flight, ET8574, from Houston to Lagos that was delayed several hours on August 15, 2020. Allegations of Nigerian Embassy officials scalping tickets to desperate standby passengers made for an attention-grabbing headline.
But while I have been in touch with an alleged passenger on the flight who claims that tickets were being scalped, Nigeria is pushing back and offering a different narrative.
Nigeria’s Atlanta consulate confirms the flight was booked full and there were consulate officials on hand at Houston Bush Intercontinental airport. While the press release never discusses how standby passengers were handled or explains the reason for the delay, it does state that passengers paid for tickets directly via Ethiopian Airlines and not via the consulate.
Here is the press release, in full:
The Consulate General of Nigeria, Atlanta wishes to refer to the unfortunate incident that occurred on 15 August 2020, on Ethiopian Airlines flight No. 8574 to Lagos and Abuja respectively. The Consulate General of Nigeria, Atlanta wishes to express regret at this unfortunate incident and to assure the General public that the Consulate General of Nigeria, Atlanta has engaged the Ethiopian Airlines Management to find out what actually happened with a view to avert future occurrence of such an incident.
Consequently, The Consulate General of Nigeria, Atlanta wishes to assure the General Public that subsequent flights would be smooth without hitch.
In addition, the Consulate General of Nigeria, Atlanta wishes to inform that its attention has been drawn to publications on social media insinuating that “Nigerian Officials Scalp Tickets to highest bidders” and to state the facts as follows:
- Officers from the Consulate General of Nigeria, Atlanta were on ground to ensure that the evacuees complied with Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force guidelines on COVID -19 and to render any consular assistance the evacuees might have needed. They were assisted by Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), President, Exco officials of NIDO, Houston and medical Volunteer personnel from Association of Nigerian Physicians in America (ANPA) and Association of Nigerian Nurses, Houston branch;
- Evacuees bought their tickets online at www.ethiopianairlines.com prior to departure and all payments were also made directly to Ethiopian airlines;
- Only evacuees who have bought tickets were attended to on the day of evacuation/departure;
- Tickets for the flight from Houston to either Abuja or Lagos were sold at US$ 1,500 and 3,000 for economy and Business class respectively due to longer flight hours, as against the initial price given by the Ethiopian Airlines of US$ 1,700 and US$3,500. The hours of flight from Newark to either Lagos or Abuja are shorter hence the lower fare;
- For the flight of that fateful day, 15 August 2020, a Preliminary manifest was forwarded to the Consulate General by Ethiopian Airlines management days before departure of the flight because the flight was fully booked, for onward transmission to Headquarters in Abuja. This was the normal practice. The Manifest had a total of three hundred and seven (307) confirmed adult passengers;
- The actual and final manifest had a total of two hundred and eighty-five (285) adult passengers and 28 infants that arrived Lagos and Abuja on 16 August 2020 excluding infants on board the flight;
- 4 evacuees disembarked, 6 evacuees were not allowed to check-in due to non-presentation of valid up to date COVID-19 negative test results and one was taken away by USCBP bringing the total of those who did not travel for one reason or the other to eleven; and
- There were eleven vacant seats aboard the flight due to no show.
Consulate General of Nigeria
18 August 2020
The consulate has just placed this online, as I was forwarded a photo of the press release from a doctor from the Association of Nigerian Physicians, a group which sent volunteers to Houston to help ensure passengers onboard complied with Nigerian health regulations.
Open Questions Remain
I do have a few thoughts about the incident.
First, the flight was operated by a 787-9, which offers 315 seats onboard. If the flight was “fully booked” then there must have been more than 311 passengers onboard.
If there was 285 adult passengers onboard plus lap infants and 315 total seats, that’s a difference of 30 seats. But the consulate claims the flight went out 11 open seats. Wouldn’t that suggest that some standby passengers were accommodated?
Based upon the press release, I don’t quite understand how the pricing worked either.
I’ve reached out to the consulate to try to understand these discrepancies.
Live and Let’s Fly strives to be a purveyor of genuine news, not fake news. I’m publishing the press release in full to highlight that my goal is to correctly report what happened at Houston Airport on August 15, 2020. But I will continue to investigate what actually occurred.
If you were a passenger on that flight, please feel free to leave a comment below with what your experience was like at the airport and onboard.
What do you make of the press release?