THE advent of social media and bulk broadcast messages have brought about a new Information Age and this thriving venture of late has been used to orient, set-agendas and educate the teeming masses in ways unprecedented. However, the downside to this is the negative use of this media to misinform, de-market, wreak havoc and sway the undiscerning. ANTHONY OMOH writes
All economic spheres in the country and indeed the world have had to come out to defend themselves against one allegation or the other cropping up from the social media in recent times and the airline industry of the aviation sub-sector has not been spared.
A fortnight ago, Air Peace woke up to a trending voice recording that was claimed to have come from the leader of Omega Fire Ministries, Apostle Suleman, the message prophesied impending doom on various transport company and urged the public not to fly on Air Peace.
The message was all over WhatsApp and being who we are by seeking to inform others, people who received the message broadcast it to friends and family who further broadcast and soon it was virile that dire consequences awaited anyone who patronised the airline.
In a couple of days, another message started trending, this time it was of Dana air, allegedly made by a pilot warning the public off the airline and alleging that there are technical challenges.
The message was passed around that the airline was not maintaining its aircraft.
The action of these ‘thrill journalists’ have once again jolted a system and has caused a lot of upheaval in a system that is barely walking because of the harsh environment.
Air Peace through its spokesman, Chris Iwarah described the voice message as the work of fraudsters out tide-market its brand. He said that the airline contacted the church who denied the message leading the airline to put up a statement.
Iwarah’s statement read, “Our attention has been drawn to a recorded voice message currently trending on social media warning members of the public not to patronise some land and air transport companies, including Air Peace. While we would have loved to ignore the message so as not to dignify those behind the voice message, we are compelled by the greater need to assure members of the public and our esteemed guests that it is a fake warning put out in the public space by criminal elements and people who do not mean well for Nigeria to spread fear and demarket Air Peace.
“The recorded warning has become a recurring but futile and unproductive strategy by these unpatriotic individuals to dissuade members of the flying public from patronising Air Peace.
Indeed, three years ago, the same faceless individuals recorded a similar message and started contacting us through fronts to make available huge amounts to them to avert the claimed looming danger. Of course, we refused to yield to their threats and the dates they mentioned came without a single incident or accident.”
Also reacting, Dana Air’s Group Head, Media/Communications, Kingsley Ezenwa also alleged that some unscrupulous people were trying hard to destroy the image being built by the airline.
He said, and it stands to reason, that none of the airlines pilots could have said such about the aircraft given the fact the pilot has the right to ground an aircraft if he or she is not comfortable with its level of maintenance.
He said,”Why would any pilot say such about the aircraft he or she will still fly? Last year, someone raised a false alarm and was arrested and released after promising never to engage in such anymore. Now this is the latest of their infantile de-marketing strategy. Unfortunately for them, while they are focusing on their evil acts, we are focusing on delivering quality service hinged on safety and exceptional service and we are happy that our guests are better enlightened now.’’
The airline also went further on social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter to post videos where it’s pilots and crew members dispelled the rumour stating that they too were human and wouldn’t know of a grave situation and intentionally enter it.
Ezenwa further advised the public against misusing their social media platforms to spread ‘blatantly malicious and unverifiable information, as the airline is determined again to fish out the perpetrators and prosecute accordingly.
Statements like the ones used to discredit the above airlines are also some reasons why the international community would refuse to do any form of business with Nigerian carriers, some stakeholders also feel that these negative reports are also in part, what keeps aircraft insurance premium for Nigerian carriers very high as against others.
Some deals by domestic airlines are also currently on hold due to the negative impact of the rumours peddled, against this backdrop, stakeholders feel that the regulatory body should speak out to dispel these trending falsehoods and not leave it at the door of the airline as what impacts the airline impacts the industry as a whole especially at this time when the country has had zero accidents in three years going to four.
In the wake of all this hullabaloo, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has started auditing airlines to ensure that there is no element of truth in the allegations.
Last week, Dana Air aircraft underwent gruelling airworthiness inspection from the CAA which gave the airline a clean bill of health to continue to provide flight services and this has quenched the ongoing allegations that passengers should boycott the carrier over unsubstantiated report of unworthiness.
The clean bill according to information gathered was given after the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) carried out a full inspection on all the aircraft flying in the fleet of the airline few days ago.
According to sources, the regulatory body decided to investigate the air worthiness standard of the aircraft operating in the airline to verify the ungoing campaign against the airline that passengers should not patronize it.
The sudden appearance of the inspectors from the NCAA had also caused temporal disruption of the airline’s flights with its passengers getting stranded in some airports.
At the end of the impromptu inspection, the airline was cleared to continue flying rendering the campaigns unfounded.
In a reactionary statement to what the CAA was doing to also dispel rumours that have become injurious to the industry, Sam Adurogboye the General Manager Public Relations said:
“Our position is that all being said are rumours. This does not fall within the realm of regulatory function. However, we have re-certified all aircraft on the fleet of the airlines and we are pleased with the outcome.”
Even passengers who help to spread these de-marketing messages do themselves no good as was seen last week when the NCAA swooped in on Dana Air to carry out on- the-spot inspection of the aircraft with all passengers on board, the passengers who usually have a lot to say were delayed, some for two hours others far longer.
Funny thing is the ripple effect affects the passenger more with the delays and the airline knowing it is heeding regulation can only apologise, and in such situations cannot be held liable.