LOWER HEIGHTS

A racist video by a British Airways staffer mocking Nigerians captures a long fraught relationship

Messy.
Messy.
Image: EPA/Andy Rain
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British Airways is investigating a Snapchat video in which one of its flight attendants makes discriminatory remarks about Nigerians.

The video, which has since gone viral, shows a woman in a uniform, complaining about having to work on a Friday night before making sexually explicit comments about the size of Nigerian men’s private parts.

British tabloid, the Daily Mail, allegedly identified the woman and along with other papers says she has since been fired by the embattled airline. The video was first brought to the attention of the Mail by a staff member on the flight from London Heathrow to Abuja, Nigeria. British airways released a statement condemning the video, adding that they expect professionalism and tolerance from their staff.

In the clip, the woman mimics what she believes to be a Nigerian accent, and then complains about imaginary Nigerian passengers shouting “gimme Coca Cola, gimme beef” at her. Some Nigerians  and others took to Twitter to criticize the women for her lewd and racial stereotype, while others dismissed the woman’s comments as prejudiced, not racist.

Nigeria has long had a fraught relationship with British Airways. Back in 1997, a ban on the airline’s flights lasted 14 months. The ban was in response to Britain stopping Nigerian flights as a result of their poor safety record. More recently in 2011, in another retaliatory move, the airline had its flights slashed by the Nigerian government after Arik Air, Nigeria’s largest airline, was denied landing slots in the United Kingdom.

Squabbles with government aside, British Airways has also faced criticism from Nigerians who have accused the airline of maltreatment. But despite the love-hate relationship, British Airways’ Lagos to London route remains one of its most lucrative. That’s likely to continue given the struggles of Arik Air, one of the few airlines which previously operated direct flights on the route. Amid Nigeria’s economic recession, the airline was taken over by the Nigerian government in February to “avoid job losses, protect investors and stakeholder funds” and save the country’s “already challenged” aviation sector.