VALUED GUESTS AND PASSENGERS IN THE AIR, SUSPECTS ON THE GROUND
When joining the inaugural flight of Qatar Airways to Kigali earlier in the week in Entebbe, and when returning from Kigali back to Uganda, the excesses and follies of the so called security once again stared me in the face.
Here in Uganda, the purported security cordon purported because there is nothing real about it from where I stand has for the past years imposed intolerable conditions on travelers, with airlines, passengers and even, on condition of anonymity, CAA personnel complaining nonstop about the anti service attitude and archaic if not dictatorial mindsets of security operatives, failing to understand that in this business aviation security must work with, not against the other stakeholders.
In Entebbe the excesses manifest themselves in a prohibition order for cars to drop passengers off at the terminal, something incidentally not seen in all the other key airports in the region, compelling travelers to be dropped at a parking area distant from the terminal entrance where they are exposed to the elements of weather. As if the heat of the day or the often bucketing rain is not enough, travelers are then subjected to lugging their bags over a long distance, in particular when the trolleys during peak hours are in short supply and when the porters, as seen this time again was it a coincidence that it was lunch time have gone AWOL, leaving it to the travelers to carry bags upstairs to the departure level, an inconsiderate if not cruel way to bid farewell to in particular elderly passengers many of whom I have witnessed to reach the terminal just a heartbeat away from suffering a collapse.
Apart from that however, on departure I could witness that a new batch of aviation security personnel was shown the ropes through a guided tour, after going through their induction training which for sure included customer care course content, as the words please and thank you during my own processing were much in evidence.
Yet what a contrast to departing from Kigali again, yes, again, as this is not the first time I experienced security personnel not fit to be deployed at an international airport, a view by the way shared by several airline personnel I spoke to on the ground and other travelers alike who equally felt that the security staff were not up to expected performance levels. Aviation is all about service and security too must come to terms that their essential work meets service standards, with all the pleases and thank yous said with smiles. In my case, an overzealous chap, his pips suggesting he held the rank of second lieutenant, postured as guardian of the Brussels Airlines branded trays, literally ripping the two from my hands as I had dared to take them from the stack to empty my pockets into them, and then reluctantly, as if having to part with his personal toys, handing back one and only on repeated insistence a second into which I placed my netbook still inside its travel pocket. That apparently was no good either as he gestured to take the pocket off, which I did, placed it first in the tray and then the netbook on top, prompting him to remove the pocket, not gently for that matter, and THREW it into the opening of the X-Ray machine. Such wanna be goons need to either be mentally retooled and retrained, or if unable to absorb the most elementary lessons of customer care be shifted to patrol duties, best in pouring rain at night far away from places where civility is required.
Perhaps he did not notice me seeing how he pointed at me as I went through the body scan vengeful on top of being couth and unfit to serve at such exposed positions to his lady colleague behind the barrier who then had a go at my travel bag, questioning why I had 5 phones, two cameras, carried multiple spare batteries and chargers in the various pockets, as she caused havoc with my well ordered possessions like a child digging the toy box for something new. To crown her (in)competence she demanded I left the opened bottle of water with her, being prohibited to take it to the check in with me, and then left me with the bottle still closed to move on.
After check in and immigration, within a hundred paces from the first check, a second one is then inflicted on travelers again, once more taking off belts, shoes and repeating the same rituals. Perhaps they should be sent to the Gulf Air First and Business Class check in lounge in Bahrain, where ONE check point deals with it all, friendly in nature but no less thorough, and once that ONE checkpoint is passed, hey presto one goes airside and not more of the same repetitive rubbish seen elsewhere, like the 7 checks I went through in December in Abuja. Alternatively they could check out how things are done in Dubai, where every connecting passenger off an aircraft has to go through an entry point security check, done with professionalism AND civility, thank you please and all.
I am not saying that security is not a necessary part of air travel these days, even needed at malls, public places and even theatres and restaurants, but what I am saying is the airport authorities and in particular top security managers MUST develop sensitivity to their staff performing in a professional manner, are well trained and accustomed to the use of please and thank you, wearing a smile and not a face as if every single traveler is a suspect to be proven guilty in the court of their small minds. Consistency is needed here and that can only be achieved through training and examinations, eliminating those who when let loose think their shining new uniforms have elevated them into little gods and dont anyone dare question them, because ME I KNOW.
Harsh you might think but I slept over it and felt as strongly about it in the morning as in the evening when I got back to the lake shores. It is time excesses and incompetence are being highlighted and changes demanded, not about the need for security but over the manner it is often executed and how a few mini goons spread their own little bit of terror, while they are allowed to get away with it. I shall return to Rwanda, a country I love and have many many good stories to tell about, and will see if anything has changed, like on a related issue that two scanners are used when the number of passengers swells and not all compelled into a long line at times reaching down to the parking.
Time to move on and talk about the joys of travel again in forthcoming articles about trips and not letting it be spoilt by the regular trials and tribulation a frequent flyer encounters along the way.
Archive for March 24th, 2012
About the trials and tribulations of a frequent traveller – Valued guest on board, suspect on the ground
VALUED GUESTS AND PASSENGERS IN THE AIR, SUSPECTS ON THE GROUND
THE EAST AFRICAN COURT OF JUSTICE AWAITS YOUR CASES, CONSERVATIONISTS TOLD
East Africas conservation and environmental groups found reasons to smile broadly earlier in the week when it became public knowledge that the Registrar of the East African Court of Justice in Arusha had not minced words when encouraging NGOs and individuals who have issues with the way their national governments treat the environment and disrespect their own legislations and environmental regulations to come to Arusha and file legal cases there. This follows an appellate division decision that the court had every right to take on such cases, following complaints by the Tanzanian government seeking to question the jurisdiction of the EACJ.
The situation arose when national courts proved woefully inadequate, if not outright unwilling to take on a controversial case from environmentalists over plans to build a highway across the Serengeti, prompting a case to be filed in Arusha at the East African Court of Justice, which is now going to have a full hearing on the merit of the suit. It is expected that other groups will now seek justice for their causes too, as for instance the residents of an area earmarked for a port expansion near Tanga, at the very location of the Coelacanth habitat a marine national park in fact are being reportedly bulldozed aside with the national courts again at least giving the appearance of being an appendix of the powers that be, while law firms too were reported, on national level, to have refused to take on the victims cases. It also gives hope to groups from across East Africa, to challenge their own governments over such issues as the Mabira Forest give away, the lack of progress in restoring the Mau Forest in Kenya or plans for Uranium mining in the Selous, the construction of a soda ash factory in the sole breeding ground of the flamingos at Lake Natron or the proposed damming of Stieglers Gorge, also in the Selous.
With the exception of the Rwandan government, which appears true to their commitment towards environmental protection and conservation, all other member states within the EAC have a chequered track record on environmental performance and the respective national watchdogs often lack teeth to enforce national laws, something which is now open to judicial reviews when cases are brought in Arusha.
There has been a flurry of activities in recent days as a result of the open invitation to come to the EACJ, with pressure groups, environmental NGOs and the conservation fraternity at large weighing their options to get justice for nature in Arusha, which back home under their national judiciaries would very likely not be forthcoming. For the time being, all eyes will be focused on the upcoming case of ANAW, a Kenyan based group, against the Tanzanian government to permanently stop them from interfering with the Serengetis integrity and put an end to any and all plans to build a highway across the migration routes, which could within a few years decimate the spectacular numbers of wildebeest to a mere fraction of their present size. Once that case goes underway, be sure to read about the respective arguments made before court and read all about the verdict when it is handed down. Watch this space.