You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2009 08 28Article 167556

Opinions of Friday, 28 August 2009

Columnist: Aidoo, Ato

Ghana’s Response to Delta Blues Strong Enough?

By Ato Aidoo

Ghana’s directive urging the Atlanta-based Delta Airline to improve its New-York-Accra service and treat passengers in a more humane manner is long overdue, but a welcome development that exemplifies how governments respond to the concerns of its citizenry.

The directive, whether it will be given the attention it deserves (due to the casual response from the airline’s management), or marginalized as one of those periodic complaints from an African government, is yet to be seen, but it satisfies one of the requirements, a protest which constitutes an indictment on Delta Airline’s deficient customer relations/ operational standards, packaged in the worst form for Ghana-bound passengers.

Not everything about Delta airline is bad, but it must raise its “Sigma” score.

My first experience with Delta on July 1st 2009, was not only excruciating and complicated, but mimics how an airline with a reputable record across the United States will set a different standard for its New-York-Accra route.

After a three-hour delay from Atlanta to New-York due to a refueling mistake, which the airline apologized, the ensuing encounter with Delta staff in New-York opened a can of worms and unfair treatment of passengers. Through no fault of passengers, a connecting flight to Accra was missed, and it took hours of convincing before Delta could offer me a cheap hotel, plus a cheap dinner and breakfast coupon.

Luck played a part, but it was also due to the fact that I stood up to their nonsense, illogical argument, counter-argument, and fallacies. Delta staff can advance some weak arguments which have no basis in logic; they slang and rant in New-York when they are in short of intelligent answers.

Others were unlucky and in the usual Ghanaian fashion “Gave The Matter to God”, a sad story of how Ghanaians and other passengers who had travelled from Canada, Missouri, and other parts of the United States to connect a flight to Accra , were left stranded at the JFK Airport in New-York to fend for themselves.

Some travelers slept at the airport; others had to check-in into nearby hotels at their own expense. Others called for help from friends and relatives living in the New-York area. Such was the ordeal, and what many passengers had to endure.

I thought the drama was over, but “things fell apart again, and the center could not hold” on my August 5, 2009 return journey from Accra to New-York.

Once again, I had to delve into my journalistic past to become ‘a voice for the voiceless”, and intervene to bring to order a Delta airhostess who was “ordering passengers about like kids” and “talking down to them”. She did realize her guilt and apologized to me, but I insisted her apology was being directed to the wrong person, that the right recipients were those that she ‘mistreated”.

It is refreshing to know, that the government of Ghana is considering opening the New-York-Accra route to other airlines so as to promote the much needed competition to Delta’s operation. This, when it becomes a reality, would accelerate the re-branding of Delta and other airlines to save their corporate image in Africa.

African politicians walk and talk through two doors. They share one of the doors with the public through a strong directive, the other with the corporate world through a soft touch.

This is why what Ghana’s Transport Minister, Mike Hammah has expressed to the world as regards Delta’s poor services , must be monitored with a critical eye until there is an improvement in the airline’s service on the Accra route.

No individual prays for the demise of a profitable and convenient airline business, guided by the notion that in Delta’s example, it facilitates job creation in the United States and Ghana, a “win-win situation” which Delta should accept without blemish to reverse shortfalls that are gradually discoloring its reputation.

To be silent over corporate/ or managerial deficiencies represents the worst form of submission, for as they say in Ghana, “if we do not highlight shortfalls and unfair treatment, our 6 would be turned into a 9” (literally, the act of cheating and disrespecting people), a bad omen that cannot withstand the wrath of the traveling public.

More so, when it is being perpetuated by an airline whose life-line or bottom-line depends on a portion of what comes out of our pocket, solely necessitated by our desire to visit the homeland from the United States, or vice-versa, at which time we have to deal with an airline.

At journalism school, Kwame Duffour (Verbosity) advised us to keep our pens, for as societies evolve, and businesses become vibrant, all manner of people and the corporate world would seize the opportunity to trample upon the individual’s liberties, among others.

“When these things unfold”, Duffour charged, “grab your pens and use them”.

Lo and Behold, his concern is now a reality, and not a surprise.

Strengthened by this, and as in Shakespeare’s Othello: “I will wear my heart upon my sleeve”, against the backdrop of Delta’s sinking image in Ghana.

-Author, formerly of the features desk, Daily Graphic, Accra, Ghana.