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Cablegate: World Airways and Rite Time Both Plan to Assist

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

161700Z Jan 04

UNCLAS LAGOS 000105

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ECON CASC SOCI NI
SUBJECT: World Airways and Rite Time Both Plan to Assist
Passengers

REF: (A) LAGOS 54, (B) LAGOS 31, (C) 03 ABUJA 2216, (D) LAGOS 74

1. Summary: On Thursday, January 15, 2004, Conoff participated
in a telephone call initiated by representatives of World
Airways. World Airways executives asked if Post could provide an
approximate number of World Airways passengers still stranded in
Lagos, adding that the carrier plans to operate a "humanitarian
flight" from Lagos to New York on Sunday, January 18, 2004.
Peter Obafemi, CEO of Rite Time Travel is also making independent
efforts to assist stranded passengers with their return to the
U.S. As of 1800 Friday, January 16 Consulate is aware of at
least 11 Amcits who remain stranded in Lagos. End Summary.

2. On January 15, ACS Officer spoke to the following
representatives of World Airways: Bob Dubois, Director of
Passenger Sales, Allen Fort, Vice President of Sales, Robert
Perry, Vice President of Business Development, Ann Aktabowski,
Vice President of Ground Services and Mark McMillan, corporate in-
house Counsel. Mr. Dubois asked ACS Officer to provide them with
a sense of how many World passengers we believed were still
stranded in Lagos. This information would assist World in making
a decision as to how to proceed in rescuing the stranded
passengers. The executives confirmed that they have distanced
themselves from Obafemi, and will not speak with him because they
are pursuing legal avenues against him and Rite Time over this
matter.

3. We do not have an accurate count of how many passengers
remain. ACS Officer advised World Airways that approximately 125
passengers, including minor children and legal permanent
residents, have visited the Consulate seeking assistance. In
addition, RSO confirmed the presence of approximately 80 World
Airways passengers still stranded at Murtalla Mohammed
International Airport on January 15. We do not know the
nationalities of this group or how many of them may be the same
passengers that came to the Consulate. Some or all of them may
have departed on the January 15 TransAtlantic flight to JFK via
Accra. Finally, we do not know how many others are waiting in
their villages, have taken alternate flights, or simply have
given up the trip.

4. World Airways executives promised to keep the lines of
communication open with the Consulate and provide specific
details regarding the humanitarian flight. Aktabowski assured
Conoff that, although the situation "is not World Airways'
fault," the airline would do everything it could to help resolve
the matter. Aktabowski stressed that the January 18 flight will
be a "moral gesture of good will," not an assumption of
responsibility. She cautioned, however, that beyond the January
18 flight, World Airways cannot operate without receiving payment
for services already rendered. She added that World Airways is
not obligated to operate without a contract.

5. At approximately 1500 on January 15, Peter Obafemi advised
Conoff that he would provide seats aboard a departing
TransAtlantic flight at no additional charge for all stranded
passengers who had visited the Consulate. At the same time,
Henry Seymour, a former representative of Rite Time who has
distanced himself from Obafemi, offered six Amcits and 11 other
passengers seats on the same flight at a discounted price of
$700.00. At 2230, Obafemi confirmed that he was able to board
150 stranded World Airways passengers on the TransAtlantic flight
but he could not tell us how many of them were Amcits. Obafemi
said he was not sure when he could assist approximately 150
additional passengers who he says remain stranded in Lagos.
Furthermore, Obafemi admitted, tickets have been sold through
March.

6. Comment: Based on Obafemi's estimate, ACS Officer will
provide World Airways' executives with an approximate number of
150 remaining passengers of unknown nationalities. While post
continues to work with Obafemi and World Airways, we will stress
that our goal is to ensure the safe return of American citizens.
As of 1600 on January 16, 9 additional AmCit passengers had
contacted the Consulate seeking assistance in obtaining flights
to the U.S. Right now, we are aware of 11 Amcits who are still
stranded but more could emerge. End comment.

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