Port Harcourt International Airport witnessed a mild drama on Sunday, when an Air Peace passenger discovered he had boarded the wrong plane just before takeoff.
The discovery forced the Abuja-bound aircraft to abort departure and return to the tarmac for all passengers to disembark.
Some passengers, who could not stomach the delay and others, who did not understand why everyone and not just one passenger should disembark from the plane, picked quarrels with officials. Others simply suspected security breach and fled.
The Guardian learnt that the passenger in question, Asuelimen Osenmhen, was actually flying for the first time and on arriving at the airport late, just boarded the Port Harcourt-Abuja flight, thinking it was Port Harcourt-Lagos flight. Unknown to Osenmhen, his sister, who had used the online platform booked on a wrong route.
Invitation of airport officials, including the anti-bomb squad further raised panic among the travellers.
Osenmhen, who was actually heading to Lagos for an interview Monday morning, was taken in for questioning.
Air Peace’s Corporate Communications Manager, Chris Iwarah, noted that the passenger claimed he neither saw the error nor paid attention to the boarding announcements until the crew made the final announcement before takeoff.
Iwarah said: “It was also discovered that the passenger was a first-time air traveller. Although it was easy to determine that the passenger made an innocent error, Air Peace insisted on a second security check because of the uncompromising premium we place on the safety of our passengers and operations. The Anti-Bomb Squad was called in and the aircraft was thoroughly scanned.”
Satisfied that there was no security threat whatsoever, the passengers boarded afresh after about two hours of delay.
Iwarah said: “The aircraft eventually took off and landed safely at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja around 11:03a.m. The passenger, Mr. Asuelimen Osenmhen was not bearing any nylon bags, nor were the passengers on board the aircraft ‘forced’ to disembark as it was erroneously reported.