How Overbooking is (Mis-)Handled in Ghana

When a TAP Air Portugal flight from Accra to Sao Tome (the second leg of a continuing flight from Lisbon) was overbooked by three, the airline didn’t seek volunteers but instead selected 3 passengers at the gate to bump.

Usually passengers without seat assignments are at greatest risk of a bump, but two of the women had had their seats assigned for three months. Often the last passengers to check in might be at risk of being bumped, but they checked in early for the flight.

I’m not sure how the passengers determined whom they were being bumped for but they believe it’s black women being displaced for white passengers,

The officials needed their seats for some 3 caucians and they looked at their face and because they were black, young girls they were the natural targets.

The passengers refused re-accommodation on the next flight, TAP’s service is three times weekly. The 596 mile route is served by no other airline.

Copyright: rebius / 123RF Stock Photo

There was a bit of a tussle at the gate,

Tap Portugal officials then call in airport security who manhandled them and literally dragged them away from the waiting area. That’s assault.

Luckily, they reported to the airport police, got a medical report done and they are going to sue Tap Portugal, sue the Airport Security and sue everyone involved in this.

Though it’s clear that the passengers never boarded the flight and had their altercation with staff in the gate area, the incident is being reported as “them forcibly pushed off the flight by Airport Security” which raises the specter of what happened to David Dao on a United Express flight in April.

I suspect several things are going on,

  • Airlines don’t clearly communicate what’s going on to customers
  • Customers jump to conclusions as a result
  • American passengers are sometimes jealous of European passenger rights legislation but by world standard customers are treated very well

Flying TAP Air Portugal out of Ghana is a very different experience than flying United from Chicago (David Dao notwithstanding) despite both airlines being members of the Star Alliance.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary, I’m sure you meant to say “by third world standards…[American] customers are treated very well”. Otherwise, not so much. #maga

  2. That’s horrible! That’s another airline to avoid. I’m going to ban them until they have a great error fare/awesome sale/I fprget about this incident.

  3. TAP is horrible. They even overbook Business Class.

    Earlier this year when I checked in 3 hours prior TAP downgraded my Business Class ticket to Economy. They refused to provide any compensation and I had to take them to small claims court where they paid me 75% back of the fare as in their conditions of carriage.

    Will NEVER use them again!

  4. If these passengers feel so discriminated against, I’d suggest using their own country’s airline. Or must they be on Portugal’s airline only to complain about it not giving preferential treatment to non-Portuguese (as that’s actually what the case is here).

    It’s like that Democrat from Texas, Rep. Jackson. If she’s not given preferential treatment, it’s everyone else who’s racist.

  5. As someone who has lived in Sub-Saharan Africa for several years as an expat, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that the situation played out differently than indicated here.

    The airline likely screwed up, but I doubt that the passengers reacted well or truly had a good read on why they were bumped and for whom. It is also probable that this wasn’t explained clearly, which is of course on the airline.

    The video shows nothing other than people excited and a security staffer nervous/unhappy about being recorded. That’s really common in my experience. It is even straight up illegal in several places.

    So, let’s not be too quick to add this to the running narrative on poor service from the airlines. There might be more to the story.

  6. lol…typical commentary from you Gary. “it wasnt that bad, blah blah blah”.

    you forget not everyone is a creditcard points scammer that enjoys preferential treatment at the airport. It is already stressful to fly in some parts of the world, and then you throw in a budget airline with zero customer service and airport officials with no knowledge of crisis mgmt; big recipe for PR backlash for the airline and airport mgmt.

    I have been on an oversold flight in december in west africa and it is not the easiest. They offered $2k each for 6 passengers and no one jumped. Africans throw big celebrations for christmas/ newy year and are not as greedy as americans when it comes to taking $$ to change travel schedule.

    It is not uncommon for European and MEA airlines to bump natives for expat travellers. I have seen it too many times. same way Dr. Dao was bumped (asians are considered low threat right?). smh

  7. Airlines don’t clearly communicate what’s going on to customers
    Customers jump to conclusions as a result

    These 2 points set an incorrect tone for your article, the give an appearance that somehow the passengers are to blame

  8. Willian Y, your post is pretty idiotic. An airline is obligated to treat all its passengers equally, regardless of where they come from. How did you come up with such ignorance? Don’t all passengers pay their fares with money ? In fact, air fares in this part of the world tend to be much higher than in the western world.
    If TAP is not prepared to treat passengers from Ghana well, then perhaps thry shouldn’t take our money, or fly this route.

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