The Nigerian Consulate in Atlanta has responded to the Ethiopian Airlines ticket “scalping” incident which took place in Houston, denying wrongdoing and dismissing reports concerning the flight. She said none of its officials were involved in the alleged ticket scalping connected to the August, 15. Evacuation flight.
An online news medium had earlier this week reported that Nigerian officials delayed a chartered Ethiopian Airlines flight, ET8574, from Houston to Lagos for eight hours on August 15, 2020. Just to “scalp” every available ticket to desperate standby passengers with the highest bidding.
According to the report, the delay started after the evacuees had already boarded the plane, leading to a protest by the passengers “held hostage without air conditioning”.
Reacting to the allegation, the Consul General of Nigeria in Atlanta, Mrs Aishatu Musa, in a press release said consular officials had nothing to do with sale of tickets.
Musa explained that the evacuees booked their tickets online and made payments directly to the airline.
She further said the flight was booked full and there were consulate officials on hand at Houston Bush Intercontinental airport. While the press release never discusses how standby passengers were handled or explains the reason for the delay, it does state that passengers paid for tickets directly via Ethiopian Airlines and not via the consulate.
“The Consulate General of Nigeria, Atlanta wishes to refer to the unfortunate incident that occurred on 15 August 2020, on Ethiopian Airlines flight No. 8574 to Lagos and Abuja respectively. The Consulate General of Nigeria, Atlanta wishes to express regret at this unfortunate incident and to assure the General public that the Consulate General of Nigeria, Atlanta has engaged the Ethiopian Airlines Management to find out what actually happened with a view to avert future occurrence of such an incident.”
“Consequently, The Consulate General of Nigeria, Atlanta wishes to assure the General Public that subsequent flights would be smooth without hitch.”
“In addition, the Consulate General of Nigeria, Atlanta wishes to inform that its attention has been drawn to publications on social media insinuating that “Nigerian Officials Scalp Tickets to highest bidders” and to state the facts as follows:
Officers from the Consulate General of Nigeria, Atlanta were on ground to ensure that the evacuees complied with Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force guidelines on COVID -19 and to render any consular assistance the evacuees might have needed. They were assisted by Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), President, Exco officials of NIDO, Houston and medical Volunteer personnel from Association of Nigerian Physicians in America (ANPA) and Association of Nigerian Nurses, Houston branch;
Evacuees bought their tickets online at www.ethiopianairlines.com prior to departure and all payments were also made directly to Ethiopian airlines;
Only evacuees who have bought tickets were attended to on the day of evacuation/departure;
Tickets for the flight from Houston to either Abuja or Lagos were sold at US$ 1,500 and 3,000 for economy and Business class respectively due to longer flight hours, as against the initial price given by the Ethiopian Airlines of US$ 1,700 and US$3,500. The hours of flight from Newark to either Lagos or Abuja are shorter hence the lower fare;
For the flight of that fateful day, 15 August 2020, a Preliminary manifest was forwarded to the Consulate General by Ethiopian Airlines management days before departure of the flight because the flight was fully booked, for onward transmission to Headquarters in Abuja. This was the normal practice. The Manifest had a total of three hundred and seven (307) confirmed adult passengers;
The actual and final manifest had a total of two hundred and eighty-five (285) adult passengers and 28 infants that arrived Lagos and Abuja on 16 August 2020 excluding infants on board the flight;
4 evacuees disembarked, 6 evacuees were not allowed to check-in due to non-presentation of valid up to date COVID-19 negative test results and one was taken away by USCBP bringing the total of those who did not travel for one reason or the other to eleven; and
There were eleven vacant seats aboard the flight due to no show.”