“Chief, is that normal?” I asked my cameraman named Richmond Tano. He sat by me.
“I was about asking you, too,” responded Tano.
“Ajala! [comic exclamation] And there are no stop points in the air, too,” I said jokingly.
We shared seats 11C and 11D respectively. I was just by the window. Whereas I had enjoyed peeping through the window admiring nature― God’s handiwork― I had my intestines pacing up and down like a drunkard trying to find his way up a hill. I was gripped with fear when the flight attendant, who I later learnt she was called Matilda, gave an announcement.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are about entering a turbulent zone. Please, fasten your seatbelts and remain seated. Thank you,” she uttered.
The beautiful lady believed to be in her late twenties was not entirely responsible for my uneasiness. Yes, so I think. It was my first time aboard an airplane and I never really knew there could be ‘pot-holes’ in the skies that could make the big metallic bird shake.
We were en route Tamale [in the Northern Region] from Accra aboard a Passion Air plane. It was Wednesday, January 23, 2019 and we were headed for Bolgatanga and its catchment areas to cover the National Food Buffer Stock Company’s takeover of some warehouses. A sponsored trip it was.
I did not want to appear the only villager in town, or perhaps in the skies, so I decided not to ask anyone anything. After all, we were told to fasten our seatbelts.
The airplane moved on. A crew member in the cockpit announced the level of altitude we were flying. All this while, a hot cup of coffee Matilda had served me was held tightly in my hand. I had temporarily lost appetite for it. I looked to my left. Tano had his tightly pressed to the small board of a table that one could fold downwards from behind the seat next to them.
“I wish we had travelled by bus,” I said to Tano.
“Mesee,” he said in Twi; to wit; I tell you.
We laughed out our fears and consoled ourselves that once everybody aboard the plane seemed very much comfortable, we must enjoy our flight as the voices of Matilda and that from the cockpit had previously assured our safety.
So soon, we had moved past the ‘turbulent zone’ and everything was so smooth.
“You don’t realise the plane is even moving,” I said.
“Exactly. It’s so smooth,” replied Tano as he sipped his fruit juice together with a pack of biscuit. Mind you, he was done with his first meal of a cup of coffee.
Fruit juice is not my favorite so when I took it from Matilda as she served us, I told Tano he could enjoy mine too. About 30 minutes into our journey, I felt uncomfortable in my ears. I could feel pains in my ears that at a point I cocked them with my fingers.
I think it was due to the sound the aircraft’s engine or whatever made as it was close to where I sat. I carefully looked around and everybody sat seemingly comfortably.
“Ah! How? Could I be the only one feeling this way?” I asked myself. Few seconds later, I posed the question to Tano. He felt the pain in his ears, too, but not that much as compared to mine.
Unknowingly, a woman who sat to my left― on the seat directly in front of Tano― had spotted me struggling.
“Feeling pains, right?” she intoned.
“Okay, try yawning it will go. You will be okay,” she told me with cock-assuredness.
I tried it and I was relieved.
“People have experience,” I said to Tano of the woman after thanking her. A reporter and his cameraman in the plane, we spoke about everything. It was rather unfortunate Tano did not have his camera on him to shoot our first flight experience.
The plane landed safely at the Tamale Airport. I said a prayer, “Thank you God.”
Our flight was very smooth. Straight from the airport, we headed to Bolgatanga, moved to Zuarugu and Pwalugu and went to lodge at a guest house in the evening.
The following day, Thursday, January 24, we moved to Navrongo and Bulsa North and South all together with the aforementioned in the Upper East Region and took coverage of the warehouses the National Food Buffer Stock Company was to take over its management.
The evening of that very Thursday, we flew back to Accra aboard another Passion Air flight. This time, Tano and I relaxed and enjoyed the flight as much as possible. Again, the flight attendants and a voice from the cockpit assured safety. We landed safely in Accra a little after an hour.
For Richmond Tano, he had heard of Passion Air before. He tells me he was the cameraman from TV3 to have shot the launch of the airline in Accra; he had even entered one of Passion Air’s planes but that [plane] did not move from the tarmac. In my case, it was my first time experiencing Passion Air and, again, my first time flying by air.
Having had a successful trip to Tamale via Passion Air, I have come to love the airline that much. So, on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 when it happened that I had to make another [personal] journey to Tamale from Accra, I chose Passion Air. I have downloaded the airline’s mobile app; PassionAir. In the comfort of wherever you are, provided there is internet, one can book a flight and pay through mobile money [all networks] or using a Visa card. There is yet an option of paying your fare later on.
For being aboard Passion Air on two separate round trips, I would recommend it to anyone who wishes to travel via flight from Accra-Kumasi, Accra-Tamale and vice versa. Right at the check-in points at both the Kotoka International Airport and the Tamale Airport [that I know], the Passion Air crew there meet you with smiles and humility unlike some services in the country whose workers make you feel you are nobody.
Aboard a Passion Air plane, the cabin crew are equally professional. They show you smiles and respect. On my first day I went aboard Passion Air to Tamale, I realised that their customers’ safety is their topmost priority.
“Hello sir, please resume your seat and fasten your seatbelt,” said one young man so politely but sternly. I think when I later asked of his name, he mentioned David to me. A passenger had gotten up to use the washroom but David, a cabin crew member, would tell him to hold on as the seatbelt sign/light was on. I think that was within Matilda’s turbulent zone and, for David, I suppose it was not appropriate the man walked in the plane.
“Hello sir,” said David again to the man, “you can please go now.” He told him when we had bypassed the shaky zone.
Nonetheless, aside Passion Air’s remarkable services, I think there are a few issues they must address. Using the airline’s app, one after booking his/her flight would at times get a different fare from what was originally quoted. So, when I wanted to book a flight to Accra from Tamale on Sunday, March 10 2019, the app kept messing me up on the fare. I had to get their toll-free line, call them and one lady I spoke to had to book the flight for me at her end. Still on the app, I think there should be [a]n option/button for customers/passengers to be able to share their fight details with persons they think must know of their intended journey.
These aside, aboard Passion Air’s planes, I realized their public address system was not that audible. At times, one has to strain their ears before getting what is being communicated and the feed from the cockpit, I humbly think, has always not been that audible [to me]. The seeming noise in the plane should be looked at, too.
Dear Passion Air, get these issues addressed and you are good to go. Please, permit me chip in this; would you [all airlines] agree with me that your passengers must be made to wear the life jackets [which in Passion Air’s case we were told were under our seats] as we board the plane than telling us to do so in case of an emergency? Considering Ethiopian Airline’s Boeing 737 Max8 crash, was it possible any of its passengers quickly wore their life jackets in hope that that could have saved them in any way?
Well, I once again congratulate your cabin crew. They are fantastic. My only suggestion is that they should not learn from Ghana’s business news reporters who would say/write ‘the year-on-year inflation rate was …’ and expect their audience to understand that with ease. What is year-on-year?
Whereas I understand ‘turbulent zone,’ I could not properly understand that aboard a plane. Perhaps, re-wording that caution will do. Something like: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are entering a zone that could mildly shake our flight. Fasten your seatbelts and relax. The shake is normal as driving on a pot-holed road. Thank you.” Or, what do you think?
Anyway, lest I forget; my first flight experience teaches me two things. That, God deserves every praise for His beautiful nature and the wisdom given mankind to do marvelous things. And, secondly, a massive thanks to the people behind the making of aircrafts as they really have made use of their brains.
By Solomon Mensah
The writer is a broadcast journalist with TV3/3FM. Views expressed here are solely his and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organisation.