In addition to a high rate of disparity in airfare, these systemic trends that emit prejudice, negligence, and thoughtlessness manifest as racial discrimination in service delivery standards.
The flight booking was the United States-based Delta Airlines, but the routing and services were provided by its partner airline, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the official airline carrier of the Netherlands. Thus, a Delta flight on January 13—originally booked as DL 9477—ended up as KL 588, a return leg originating in Lagos and heading to Houston through Amsterdam. This practice of re-booking flights under other carriers has been standard since 2020, when Air France, KLM, Delta, and Virgin Atlantic launched a partnership to provide customers with more convenient flight schedules, and a smooth and consistent travel experience, whichever airline they fly.
But just like any other European airline, flights originating from North America to Europe are often selective. Aircraft are newer and cleaner, and offer more reliable in-flight entertainment gadgets. They also have cleaner lavatories, and passengers are served fresher meals and provided with well-mannered flight attendants. Additionally, take-off delays are well-justified and are announced to passengers with the utmost respect.
However, once those airlines land at European layover airports, the story changes. Passengers transiting to African cities are hauled into dilapidated, filthy aircraft. Flight attendants may be professional and sometimes welcoming, but the evidence of systemized service shortfalls subjugate every moment. For instance, lavatories are uncared for, in-flight entertainment devices are broken-down, and the aircraft’s seat arrangement offers agonizingly tight leg room. Unprecedented take-off delays are customary, especially with flights originating from African cities to Europe.
Experience of flight KL 588 was a sorry tale of equipment breakdown and service negligence.
Accordingly, the KL 588 flight from Lagos to Amsterdam, filled with Nigerian passengers, was no different. Being a Boeing jet that looks good on the exterior, painted with KLM’s official blue color and logo, there is a mentality that because it is a KLM brand, nothing would ever go wrong. Yet the experience of flight KL 588 was a sorry tale of equipment breakdown and service negligence. The first shocker was a whopping one-hour take-off delay that left passengers seated in a crowded aircraft, grappling with hot cabin air, at a time when the highly infectious omicron variant was spreading like wildfire. Cabin attendants walked around aimlessly—a practice they were seemingly accustomed to.
The next embarrassing moment was an announcement about the nonworking in-flight entertainment system, made by a senior flight attendant, who stated, “We’re going to reboot the system, which should hopefully sort out the problem.” The system was not working at all and the flight attendants knew it, but their unethical lying to passengers about it raises other questions: Was the system rebooted? Did it work? Passengers did not receive any other explanation and instead spent six hours staring at blacked-out entertainment screens. They were equally uninformed of the progress of the trip until, finally, it was time to land in Amsterdam.
Inside this flight, Nigerian passengers narrated their past horrific experiences of flying these European airlines, and how the booking and in-flight services change when these airlines operate within the Western territories. KLM’s experience is just a yardstick, as all European airlines share this institutionalized racial service structure—an unwritten policy of discrimination entrenched in their operational standards.
A failure by these European carriers to adequately supervise their African locations in similar standards to their European bases is racist.
Flight attendants may appear professional and may wear a smiling face, yet their service system remains well-structured, bigoted garbage. KLM operatives are very much aware that their ground services at their African locations are unsupervised—usually riddled with bribery, corruption at the highest level, and unrivaled clumsiness. For example, a basic check-in process at their European locations takes less than 15 minutes, whereas it takes hours to undergo a similar process at their African locations. A failure by these European carriers to adequately supervise their African locations in similar standards to their European bases is racist.
Institutional racism is often less noticeable because of its unconcealed nature, which makes it an innocuous routine. It is illogical for these airlines to have daily flights from African to European cities—loaded with 99.9% African passengers—without Black flight attendants, without authentic African food on the menu and, worst, without African TV programs or movies in their entertainment collection. It is completely insensitive and disrespectful to the African culture to serve pasta, apple pie, rice soaked in cheese, and tasteless meat and vegetable patties on a flight filled to the brim with African natives, and to offer them entertainment devoid of African themes.
In addition to a high rate of disparity in airfare, these systemic trends that emit prejudice, negligence, and thoughtlessness manifest as racial discrimination in service delivery standards. Thus, a collective failure of these airlines to provide appropriate and professional services to their African passengers is racially prejudicial.
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