Nigeria: Air Peace, Passenger Bicker Over Exit Seat Row, Language Barrier

Air Peace airlines and one of its customers yesterday, bickered over an incident in connection to an exit seat row and language of communication onboard the aircraft.

The incident, which recently occurred on a Lagos-Owerri flight, forced the airline crew to deboard the customer, identified as Christopher Aniagboso.

While Aniagboso alleged that he was deboarded from the aircraft over his inability to speak and understand English, the airline said the passenger was left behind to guarantee the safety of crew and other onboard travellers.

The airline alleged that all through his interaction with its ground staff, Aniagboso communicated in fluent English, adding that his claim of not being able to communicate in English at the point of the safety briefing was only to disrupt and delay the flight.

Speaking in Igbo to reporters in Lagos, Monday, Aniagbaoso said he was at the airport on the fateful day, but missed his flight after receiving a call that took almost 30 minutes.

He said he went on to ask if there was another available flight, and he was told to pay N7,200 for the next flight at 2 p.m. same day, as he was being attended to by a lady, who spoke in Igbo and was allotted a seat at the emergency exit.

He said before take-off, he was instructed on how to use the emergency exit, but told the hostess he didn't understand English. She called a colleague of hers, who was Igbo, but he said she couldn't interpret what was being said.

Aniagboso added that he later got help from a fellow passenger, who explained the instructions that were being given, but was surprised when he was asked to leave his seat by the hostess on order from the pilot.

He alleged that he further requested for another flight for which he was asked to pay a sum of N3,000 as no-show fee to which he objected to, saying it was not his fault he couldn't fly with the aircraft.

According to him, after several arguments, he agreed to pay but was told by the manager that he wouldn't be allowed to use the airline henceforth.

But Air Peace Corporate Communications Manager, Chris Iwarah, in response denied some of the claims, saying Aniagboso had insisted on being briefed in Igbo language.

"When all efforts to have Aniagboso cooperate with the crew failed, the crew advised him to change his seat as the flight was already running late. He declined the advice to change his seat.

"The captain of the flight, who was eventually briefed on the development, also did everything to secure Aniagboso's cooperation to no avail. At this point, our crew members were left with no other alternative than to advise Aniagboso to disembark to enable the flight depart.

"It is important to state that only those who are able to clearly understand and express their willingness to perform their safety responsibility are allowed by aviation regulations to sit in the exit row. It is also clearly stated in the safety cards that only those who can speak English are allowed to sit in the exit row," Iwarah said.

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