By Crispy Kaheru
So many gruesome things have been happening lately in the airspace. Many travellers are beginning to think twice before they opt to fly.
On March 8, 2014, the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing; to date its whereabouts continue to defy the edict of technology and human wisdom.
Four months later another Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down on July 17. Just the other day, another plane went missing; Air Algerie Flight AH5017 left Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and was bound for Algiers. Somewhere midway the flight, it went missing and was later reported to have crashed around the Burkina Faso boarder area of Gao.
Meanwhile, in June, our own Air Uganda was grounded on account of safety and regulatory glitches involving Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority.
About a week ago, I was on the Addis Ababa bound Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 701 from London and something weird happened. Right next to me was a gentleman who for some reason was so unsettled during preparations for flight takeoff. As passengers continued to board the aircraft, he paced from his seat to one end of the aisle and back. He did this so many times.
When he tried to settle in his seat, he pulled out his mobile phone and made over 10 phone calls in a space of five minutes. He looked disturbed, uneasy, anxious name it! In short he was just too unsettled.
As he continued to wiggle and waggle in his seat, two bundles of 100 bills of pounds slid from the side pockets of his kaki tour pants – he quickly picked the money and stood up to put it in the handbag that he had earlier placed in the overhead locker. He took to his seat again and continued with his sudden moves.
I could no longer take it anymore; I walked to one of the airhostesses and stated what was happening – which I thought and felt was a bit out of the ordinary. After about a minute of stating my case, Hostess Rahel looked into my face and said, “sir, please take your seat, we are now busy completing preparations for takeoff; we will check the passenger once we’ve taken off from the ground”.
I was very shocked about how lax the hostess was with an issue that touched on the security and safety of all on board including herself.
With chills in my spine, I sat down, fastened my belt, said my prayers and awaited ‘anything’. My neighbour remained unsettled, making telephone calls during takeoff, contrary to the on-board safety advice.
Even before the seatbelt sign was turned off, he had already unfastened and was standing up to pick something from the overhead locker; I warned him that it was still unsafe to unfasten. Generally his behaviour on board could be described as intolerable and disruptive.
About 15 minutes into the flight, the busybody gradually drifted into slumber.
Hostess Rahel who had given me assurances that she would check the passenger out after takeoff did not do so.
So, what if my fears and suspicions were anything to go by? I probably would not be writing this; may be you would be reading about a notorious Flight ET 701 in which a Ugandan called Crispy Kaheru ‘was on board’.
In brief, in this era of terrorism, it is better to be safe than sorry. The vigilance of the public on security issues should not be taken for granted. People’s vigilance must enlist effective response from the respective custodians.
Lastly, each one of us has an equal responsibility to contribute to a safe and secure environment.
The writer is the coordinator of the Citizens' Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU)
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