Ethiopain airline staff and Nigerian authorities accused of selling seats on overbooked repatriation flight to highest bidder

Passengers were on the plane for more than 20 hours.
Passengers were on the plane for more than 20 hours. Photo credit: Getty Images

Passengers onboard a Ethiopain Airlines flight from Houston to Lagos were made to sit onboard for over eight hours while crew attempted to sell spare seats to the highest bidder, according to Nigerian financial website Nairametrics.

The flight eventually departed in the early hours of Sunday morning (local time), reportedly turning the journey home for those onboard into a 20-hour ordeal.

Passengers complained of the heat as the aircraft sat on the tarmac in Houston and some were said to have been forced to get off the plane in tears due to the extreme conditions. The report says the seats of those who got off the plane were then sold to people on a waiting list, with crew pocketing the airfare themselves.

"Eventually, five passengers deboarded from the plane, and their seats were promptly sold," one passenger told Nairametrics.

The flight was arranged to repatriate Nigerians stranded in the US and had been organised by Nigerian authorities.

Passengers arrived for the flight about 14 hours before its departure in order to pass through security and health screening, only to find the flight had been overbooked. Nigerian government officials are accused of selling confirmed tickets to the highest bidder.

Those responsible were reportedly pocketing as much as NZ$400 per seat by imposing a mark-up on the airline's official airfare, which was around NZ$2200.