“If you have magic powers and can make my bag appear, I would appreciate it.”
I know what you are thinking, “Sentell, you have lived in Nigeria for nearly two years and your happiest moments are boarding a flight to take you out of Nigeria!” It is true that I have lived in Nigeria for almost two years (May 26 will make two years) and for the most part, I have settled into Nigeria. While there are still a few things lacking that would improve my outlook here in Nigeria, life really isn’t that bad. But what wears on me is how difficult life can be here in Nigeria. Nothing is as simple as running out to do a quick errand. Everything comes with the stress and frustration of conducting business in a country that often lacks the necessary infrastructure to accomplish simple task. As usual, this story takes places at the Abuja International Airport. Last week, I returned from a business trip to Istanbul. Before I focus on the bad part of this story, let’s focus on the good news. I love Istanbul! It is one of my favorite cities in the world to visit. I love the history, historical ruins and the fact that the city straddles two continents. It just a wonderful place to be amazed.
On my return trip to Nigeria, Turkish Airlines was experiencing backup in checked bags. Now the fault of this story lies with the airline as they should have given us a heads up in Istanbul that the flight was experiencing a significant delay in the delivery of checked bags. I could have better prepared myself. When it became obvious that my bag was not arriving on Tuesday night (that was after standing at the luggage carousal for nearly two hours), I, like the hundreds of other Nigerians, approached the airport worker to inform him that my bag was missing. It’s important to note that queues or standing in line (for my American friends) don’t really exist in Nigeria. People usually rush the desk and race to see who can stretch the farthest to force their documents in the face of the airline staff. The worker took my baggage claim number and told me that my bags would arrive on the next Turkish flight – scheduled to land on Thursday night.
On Wednesday, I flew to Ibadan in Southwest Nigeria. So I just figured that when I returned to Abuja on Friday, my bag would be at the airport and I would collect it on the way home. Boy, was I wrong. When I approached the airport representative he had no clue where the Turkish Airline bags were and eventually directed me to a room where bags were stacked as high as my head. I stood for about 15 minutes in shock and amazement. ‘How was I going to go through all these bags?’ After about 10 minutes of moving bags from one side of the room to the next, I quickly came to the realization that my bag was nowhere to be found. I was told I should come back on Saturday when the next flight arrive.
So, just as I was told, I made the 45 minute drive to the airport on Saturday and was met with the same confusion and lack of information. The unclaimed baggage room was even worst. In a fit of angry, I went bag by bag organizing the room and making sure I put my hand on each bag in the room. When I left the room, the room was completely organized! Any individual would be able to walk into the room and immediately identify their bag. While I did not find my bag, I felt better knowing that I would make the situation better for others. HOWEVER, I am sure the chaos returned to the room the next day.
I left the airport defeated and a bit angry because no one seemed to be concerned that my bag was missing. When I contacted the customer service line of Turkish Airline, I was told that because I did not fill out a lost baggage form, there was nothing they could do. At the end of the conversation, when the agent asked if there was anything else he could do to assist me, I said, “if you have magic powers and can make my bag appear, I would appreciate it.” He hesitated and said, “I’m sorry, can you repeat?” I said “never mind” and ended the phone call.
Later Saturday evening, I decided that I needed to go back to the airport to meet the next Turkish Air flight that would be arriving at 11:30pm. I didn’t necessary want to make the trip by myself because Abuja can get a bit tricky late at night and I typically don’t like to travel by myself late at night. I reached out to a colleague to gauge his advice about going to the airport by myself. He kept stressing that it won’t be safe for me to make the trip by myself and would be at my house in 20 minutes. I felt bad asking him to leave his home at 11:00pm to accompany me to the airport but he did and I greatly appreciate it. And, I am glad that I made the trip because within 15 minutes of being at the airport, I had my bag in hand and we were on our way back to my house. The four day baggage ordeal was over…I was reunited with my prized possession, my Turkish delight…
The Turkish Airline baggage issue has become a pressing issue for Abuja passengers. Another colleague who flew back from Turkey on Thursday after me is still without his bag. On Monday, other affected passengers blocked a section of the Abuja airport to protest the impunity by Turkish Airlines. Sadly, the saga continues for Turkish passengers arriving in Abuja.