Ethiopian Airlines | Incompetent and illiterate ground staff at Cotonou AirportBack to Forum
I was denied boarding by an incompetent and illiterate gate agent in Cotonou. The agent could not read English and claimed my visa was not valid. Check-in staff later admitted that my visa was valid, but only AFTER I had been denied boarding and had missed my flight. Ground staff was unwilling to help and rebook the ticket. I was told to contact the call center.
The call center of Ethiopian Airlines is thoroughly unhelpful as well. They keep you waiting for hours and claim there is nothing they can do.11 Sep 2022
The perils of travel in Africa have clearly not changed ! A small transfer of currency would almost certainly have assisted the agent to remember their English lessons a few years back and probably still.
Passing out in the terminal can also assist if you are European but better if you are also a woman as the just want to get rid of you asap.12 Sep 2022
I see nothing has changed in the past 30 years since I was last there. There would always be some problem, excuse or other. To facilitate matters I use to have a police escort. It cost me CAF2,500 which was then about FFR 50 (+- £ 5 if my maths is correct) and he would escort me right through from check-in, immigration, security to boarding the plane. I was always the first to board and he would escort me right to the cabin and my seat. Even today, traveling in Africa, a little lubricant makes the journey so much smoother 😉14 Sep 2022
I appreciate that being denied boarding is frustrating but I am not sure what calling the agent “illiterate” adds to the tale of woe, especially as it is almost certainly untrue, given that they were working as a check in agent.
In my time in West Africa, in the early 90’s, the staff I encountered were some of the best educated in Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Gambia. Yes the odd box of fags, a few $ in small denominations, went a long way but never could I or would I, call anyone illiterate, even if it were true.
I might add that the OPs own grasp of the English language is far from perfect “Ground staff was unwilling…”
Not being able to decipher the intricacies of a Visa, or not being able to read Shakespeare in its original form, does not make you illiterate! Calling them illiterate does however suggest a level of entitlement and superiority which, if manifested in front of service staff anywhere in the world, is likely to be greeted with the customers service equivalent of the iron curtain.14 Sep 2022
Things may not have changed much in the last 30 years – I am based in West Africa and travel regularly. But what has changed is the 2010 UK Bribery Act. Under that legislation, a UK citizen can be guilty of an offence in any country. The giving of a bribe (whether called a facilitation payment or a tip) is included.
Whilst I am confident this will not be used to prosecute single individuals paying small bribes, it is most definitely targeted at company which provide the mechanism to help their staff grease the required palms.15 Sep 2022
Thank you! I had not thought about this. Yes, under the jurisdiction the credit card was issued in the service was not delivered (because of mistakes the airline made) and therefore the airline should not be paid.15 Sep 2022
“I appreciate being denied boarding is frustrating”. A bit of a euphemism is not it? Being denied boarding when you have all the correct paperwork and you are at the airport on time is one of the worst situations a passenger can encounter.
“Not being able to decipher the intricacies of a visa does not make you illiterate” Not being able read and interpret does not make you illiterate?
“never could I, or would I call anyone illiterate even if it were true”. Yes, I get your point. It might not be a pleasant thing to say, but if the lack of literacy leads to severe problems, such as unjustly denying passengers boarding (I was not the only passenger affected) then the matter of literacy ought to be addressed. If one cannot identify the problem, one cannot solve it.
“ground staff was unwilling…” does not portray the situation accurately. A dedicated visa agent was incapable of reading the visa documents. It was not a matter of being willing. I don’t think the person was looking for a “so-called” tip either. It appeared to have been a matter of complete incompetence. To clarify matters, the agent was not a check-in agent, but an agent working for a third-party security company (I learnt this later).
It has been a while since the early ’90s and experiences do vary. I would not classify most West African airline staff as some of the best educated in West Africa, but I have to admit that this was the first time that I encountered an agent not being able to read visa documents.
I just hope that Ethiopian Airlines in Benin takes the time to put its house in order. Quite a few passengers are impacted by their mismanagement and some of these passengers have to spend lots of money rebooking (or even worse buying an entirely new ticket) to no fault of their own. Since Benin has almost no consumer protection laws in place, there is very little these passengers can do.15 Sep 2022
@FormerBA You seem to take issue with the American (or shall I say transatlantic) phrase “Groundstaff was unwilling”. Yes, in British English it should have been “Groundstaff were unwilling”, but that does not make the phrase incorrect. Why do you infer that the grasp of English of those who do not speak British English is far from perfect?16 Sep 2022
@DavidSmith2. Thank you for pointing this out. When flying with a “regional / global airline”, you should not have to resort to facilitation payments to receive the service that was paid for. Having said that, I don’t think though that this was a case of asking for a facilitation payment. It is interesting to see that whenever there are problems with service in this region, people immediately jump to the conclusion that these problems were due to a lack of facilitation payments, whereas that is not always the case.16 Sep 2022
@FormerBA You seem to take issue with the American (or shall I say transatlantic) phrase “Groundstaff was unwilling”. Yes, in British English it should have been “Groundstaff were unwilling”, but that does not make the phrase incorrect. Why do you infer that the grasp of English of those who do not speak British English is far from perfect?
Indeed my understanding is the phrase is perfectly correct where referring to an individual or to one group of people.
In the same way the news moves between “Buckingham Palace have announced” and “Buckingham Palace has announced”….16 Sep 2022
Africa is Africa- best put it down to experience and move on
Perhaps in the American idiom -‘move right along’ could perhaps be correct ?
This type of incident is likely to happen again so best to put it down to experience and for the future take some note of the experience outlined here and remember that Africa is Africa – don’t fight it – you wont win.
One thing is certain Ethiopian’s customer service is even worse than that of Turkish (if that is possible) and you are extremely unlikely to get any satisfaction in that direction – ever.
Ride with the punches and be prepared is the best advise that I can offer – a tolerant yet aware attitude (and some small local notes) normally achieves a good outcome.
What is right or wrong is purely academic when doing most things in Africa.16 Sep 2022
Bribery in Africa? I’m shocked, shocked.
When I was a fireman on the steam locomotives of the erstwhile Rhodesia Railways a German train enthusiast asked for a footplate ride.
I happily concurred, and subsequently received a few rounds of Castle Lager at the erstwhile Salisbury Meikles Hotel in return.
Wheels successfully greased.23 Sep 2022