Nigerians trying to return home encountered a taste of home in Houston after Nigerian officials delayed their Ethiopian Airlines repatriation flight to Lagos for eight hours while trying to scalp every last ticket onboard.
Bedlam In Houston As Nigerian Officials Scalp Tickets On Ethiopian Airlines
Repatriation flights are a lucrative business, both for the airlines that operate them and the agencies who sell tickets. Over the course of the pandemic, Ethiopian Airlines has become a key operator of such flights.
Nigeria contracts with Ethiopian Airlines to offer rescue flights from Houston nonstop to Lagos. These flights roughly operate on a bi-weekly basis and are very popular. In fact, every flight is oversold and includes a long waitlist of passengers hoping for no-shows.
Nigerian Embassy officials are “in charge” of the flight and embassy officials have used it to allegedly make additional money on the side. One-way tickets cost NGN600,000 (~USD1,575). But when there are no-shows, embassy officials will scalp the tickets for higher prices to standby passengers desperate to get home. In most cases, the Nigerians will add a USD250 margin to the ticket.
Annual per capita income in Nigeria is about USD2,200 per year, which highlights what a big deal USD250 is.
The whole process of scalping tickets takes time, but nearly led to a revolt on yesterday’s service from Houston to Lagos. The flight boarded on-time. Upon completion of boarding, officials counted no-shows and open seats onboard. Then the auction began, only this time they weren’t getting the margins they sought. Like negotiations in the Idumota Market, the back-and-forths between eager (but apparently not too eager) standby passengers went on and on.
…for six hours.
Finally, embassy officials had met their quota and the 12-hour flight took off.
Meanwhile, the passengers onboard were held hostage…without air conditioning. Familes became agitated as children cried. Crew members were berated for matters far beyond their control.
After several hours some passengers demanded to get off and were allowed to. Those seats were promptly resold too.
And the trials were not even over once the flight took off.
Nairametrics, a business news outlet in Nigeria, further alleges that passports are confiscated when passengers arrive until negative COVID-19 tests arrive…or immigration officials are “greased” USD600.
Spare me the lectures about stereotyping. I’m simply relaying what happened in Houston yesterday. I’ve also been to Nigeria myself…and was met with a bribe solicitation only moments after arrival. It is what it is. I’m not disparaging a nation or people, only the corrupt who continue to give Nigeria a bad name.
My sympathies to the passengers on yesterday’s flight…
> Read More: Transit in Lagos – Bribing My Way Out
image: Alan Wilson / Wikimedia Commons