I’ve read several accounts of ill treatment, disappointments, embarrassments to frequent fliers. Perhaps if there was a better traveling alternative they would have long switched. There isn’t. We are all caught up in this and hoping and praying that someday, flying passengers would have something close to their money’s worth in terms of rendered services.

I read this very disturbing account, and I asked for permission from Mr. Anogwi Anyanwu to share it and he graciously granted it.

I couldn’t detect any tone of anger in the recount of the gory experiences, rather he showed a lot of patience and understanding.

He seems to be saying, there’s a lot of improvement even in all of these…

LANDLORD TRAVEL AND SEE

Traveling is not a piece of cake.

Today 26th October 2018, I was billed to travel to Owerri with the 7.10am Airpeace flight. I could not get on that 7.10am flight to Owerri. I have had an interesting day so far as I write this at 10.58 am. I woke up at 4.30am when my alarm went off, got ready and left my house at 5.40am. I arrived at the airport at 6.20am and queued up to check in. After 30 minutes on the queue, I got to the check-in counter. The check in clerk was lousy and sluggish and wasted too much time attending to the three people in front of me, one of who was on a 9am flight. By the time I gave her my Booking reference and ID card, she said that the flight had been closed. The staff responsible for closing the flight, one Nkechi now assembled the passengers who had not checked in as at this time to her counter and started checking us in. It was a big scramble and there was no way I was going to get into the scramble. By the time she had checked in the number she wanted, she now asked us to go to the Sales Desk and change to the 9am flight. Another queuing exercise started. When it got to my turn, the 9am flight was filled up. The next flight was the 1pm flight. Ok. Get me on the 1pm. Sorry, you have to pay extra N22,400 to get on the 1pm. I paid the N22,400 and I am stuck at the Airport for the next 5hours. Three hours have passed as I write this. When the passengers were scrambling to be checked in by Nkechi, I took a picture of the scramble but the airport security insisted I should delete the photo, which I did. What I could not understand was why an airline will close a flight thereby stopping about five check-in counters from continuing check in while they assembled us to scramble as it we were boarding a “molue” and spend more than additional 15 minutes making life difficult for us. One of us “frustrated” passengers suggested that the airline deliberately overbooks the flight and makes check in deliberately frustrating such that passengers cannot get on the flight and turn around to charge “no show fees” as well as additional fares. In other words, it is a deliberate racket by a monopoly airline to scam helpless passengers. This may well be true as that was exactly what happened to me but I am in no position to fight a monopoly airline. I am no Herb Kelleher. So here I am waiting.

As I sit at the lounge burning 5 hours, I reminisce about my other travel experiences.

Twice, I have had the privilege of enjoying Airpeace cancelling their last flight out of Owerri. The first time it happened, we were kept waiting till 7pm, then the flight was cancelled, the lights in the airport were switched off and we were abandoned to our own fates. At this time, the airport taxis had all left. What saved me that day was that I was with some friends who were able to call a vehicle from town. When we got into town, getting a hotel to sleep in became a new hurdle to cross. We kept running around Owerri till 12midnight before we could find a place to sleep. The second time my flight out of Owerri was cancelled, Airpeace was nicer about it. They apologized and offered a free ticket as compensation. In the two cases above there were passengers who had international flights and had booked the evening flight out of Owerri so they can just arrive and go straight to the International Airport to catch their international flights. Only they can tell their own stories.

I also remember one time during the Christmas season when one airline overbooked the Lagos Owerri Flight. I was lucky to get to the airport on time and checked in before the counters were closed more than one hour before departure. Now you are supposed to arrive the counter one hour before departure for domestic flight. The airline invoked this rule. The frustrated passengers who could not get checked in vandalized the check in counters and this caused more than one hour delay before the plane could take off after we had boarded.

Three years ago, I had an assignment in Liberia and was booked on the Arik flight to Monrovia. It was an interesting experience. First of all I forgot my International Passport at home. It was only after I got to the check-in counter that I realized I was supposed to be traveling with my International Passport. I called home and the passport was despatched. I eventually checked in and went into the departure hall. We waited for the 9.30am flight to board and depart but no way. By 3pm we were told that the flight had been cancelled and we should come back on Thursday(the flights were on Tuesdays and Thursdays only). We came out and were compelled to go to the arrival hall to claim our already checked in luggage.

The final experience I want to relate is how I became an illegal alien and was deported from France. I got my visa on Friday afternoon and travelled that night. I arrived London Saturday morning and boarded my connecting flight to Paris and duly arrived Paris by 9.30am. I walked majestically to the immigration desk. The immigration officer looked at my passport and said “where is your entry permit?”. I showed him my Schengen Visa and he said, “Sorry, you do not have a valid document to enter France. Your visa validity is from Monday. You can elect to stay with the police till Monday or be deported back”. Staying with the police is a nice way of saying that you will be in detention till Monday. I elected to be deported. The next flight to London was at 2.30pm. I was processed, and thrown into the detention cell to await my deportation”. In the cell, I met three African boys who could not speak a word of English a Cameroonian girl who came in from the USA without valid papers. Two Pakistanis were also brought in later. At about 1.30pm I was brought out, processed and escorted by two armed police officers to the bottom of the plane before the airline could start boarding “normal” passengers. My travel documents were handed over to the airline to be given to me on arrival in London. I took selfies with the police officers and jokingly told them that the trip was unique because when I was coming, I was in the front of the plane while I am leaving seated at the bottom of the plane.

I arrived back in London, bought a new ticket to Paris for Monday, found a hotel and rested till Monday. And the rest as they say, is history.

When the Igbo tell you that a well-travelled man has more experience than a grey haired man, you better believe them.

It is 12.20pm and I am still waiting for Airpeace to call my 1pm flight to Owerri. I am also very famished but I guess I have to live with the hunger until I get to Mbaise later today.

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