I was asked recently if I have had any bad travel experiences! I laughed at this question, as I would be lying if I said all my trips always go smoothly.
I will give two instances of some of my travel woes.
We sat in front of the noisiest set of passengers who seemed to be having a conversation with the whole plane. It made the 11 hour flight uncomfortable. At some point, they gathered around and I had a guy standing over me and adjusting and doing God knows what with his belt and zipper. Ugh! We asked them if they could keep their voices down at some point, but they quickly resumed their noisy chat. We hardly got any sleep.
When we landed in Istanbul, the plane was still taxing on the runway but passengers were already standing and opening the overhead lockers. Some were left open and bags could have dropped onto passengers while the plane made some turns. The cabin crew was undisturbed by this. I was taken aback because I would have thought that passenger safety was meant to be priority. Then for the hype this airline had been given, I had no words.
The flight from Bangkok was delayed, the connecting flight to Abuja was to depart Istanbul at 18h25. We were originally to land in Istanbul at 17h05 but we landed at 18h00. We got off the bus that took us to the arrival area at 18h15. We ran like mad people all the way, hoping to catch the plane, but we were too late. All the sprinting we had not done since secondary school was done in a few minutes at that airport like our lives depended on it, all for nothing!
We were directed to the customer transfer desk where we would be attended to. There were so many passengers who had missed flights due to delays, there was such a long queue. The sad part about everything was that the Turkish Airlines staff shouted back and forth at passengers like they were in a market square. It was fascinating to watch these airline officials who seemed to have zero knowledge of customer care/service, save for one, I think.
When we finally got to the counter, no information was given for why the flight was delayed, nor was there any apology. We asked if we could possibly be put on a partner airline to get to Abuja, but were told with such a straight face that the only option we had was to wait until the next day. Our worry was that the next day was a Sunday. The flight would leave in the evening at18h25 and get to Abuja at midnight. We were both to be back at our various offices on Monday. If we were to arrive at midnight, we would probably get home around 2am, then be in the office at 8am.
Anyway, we were directed to go through passport control to get to the hotel desk. After joining such a long queue for over an hour, tired, and in need of a shower and sleep, we were told that we needed visas. We attempted to explain that we were there by no fault of ours, but the guys would not be bothered to listen. We were tossed about a little then firmly told to go and get visas. At the visa desk, the lady looked at our passports and her only words were, ‘Nigeria, electronic visa’. Of course we had stopped expecting any explanation as we noticed that in Istanbul airport, that was rare! We went like robots to the machines, thankfully there was an English button so we made the unplanned payment of about $40 and got our visas.
We proceeded to join another queue to go through passport control. It was finally our turn. My passport was stamped and I went through. I was waiting for my friend but her passport was being scrutinized unusually, then the immigration officer asked where a valid OECD country visa was in the passport. She said there was no valid one but she showed him a recently expired one. He told her that she would be unable to go through because she needed a valid OECD country visa in her passport to be granted entry, otherwise, she would need a visa issued by a consular agent (at an Embassy or a consulate) to get into Turkey. We attempted to explain why we were there in the first place but he wasn’t buying it. We had Turkish visas issued from the Embassy in Nigeria that were used barely two weeks earlier so we were confused at the unwillingness to budge.
We both wanted to return to the Turkish Airlines desk to see if they could intervene but my passport was stamped and the officers said the only option I had was to remain where I was, then my friend would go to the desk alone. “But we are here together we protested”. “You go through or you forget it” I was told.
He attempted to take my passport back but I would not give him. By this time, the one who refused my friend entry was livid and raising his voice but I would not speak to him as he had no courtesy. Thankfully, the one who stamped my passport was not as hot headed! Ordinarily, the airline should have had a fair share of this responsibility but maybe we were expecting too much.
I just stood there waiting for my friend. I could see her being tossed about and felt so angry to not be there to give her some support. I asked about getting to her and was told that I would have to exit the airport, re-enter and have my passport stamped to indicate that I had used the visa/show my exit. Besides that, I could not get to the arrivals section of the airport but the departures section. I went back to look at how my friend was doing and she made gestures at me to show that she could not get through. She signaled for me to go. She was obviously upset and would not even look up. By this time, the immigration officers had locked their cubicles which granted me access to where I was standing as they had closed for the day and left. I had no way of communicating with my friend and was exhausted so I walked to the hotel desk.
I had to join a long queue again! There really were many people who missed flights! I finally got to the counter, I had stopped looking at how much time passed to get anything done. We waited, again, then were chauffeured to the hotel. That was when I understood why we were being asked to get visas, the hotel was not close to the airport. At least, the hotel was nice! I had a shower and felt guilty to have left her alone at the airport. I do not remember when I fell asleep but I woke up with her on my mind the next morning.
She told me when I saw her the next day that there was a lounge for all Turkish Airlines passengers which she wasn’t allowed to go in to. She was told that there was no space. A woman with whom she was in the same situation stormed in and found that there were beds and the staff were in fact lying. She stood her ground and made herself comfortable for the night.
On the other hand, the airline made absolutely no provision for my friend and many others. A Canadian was stranded and being asked to pay for visas for herself and her two children. In her case, the next available flight was on Tuesday. She lost it and caused a scene from what my friend told me. My friend was left sitting on a cold metal seat at the airport all night, she didn’t have any strength left to fight. There was also no breakfast provided by the airline. We had no phones so I could not reach her, I tried to get in touch with her family to let them know about the delay but I didn’t have a number so I had to write a friend to write to her family.
The hotel had shuttle services for each person to get to the airport the next day at certain hours, mine was for 2pm and not before, so I had to wait. When I got to the airport, I resigned to waiting for the departure gate to be displayed before I would find her, but I saw her before the gate showed up walking past with her earphones in her ears. I ran to her as calling was useless. She looked at me and said “you left me” with a knowing smile and I handed her some apples, the only possible food item I could go through security check with for her. She had eaten something but that made her laugh.
This month, January 2018, I travelled from Abuja to Geneva with Air France. I had some excess luggage of about 8Kg. I was aware and was more than willing to pay for it. It cost me about $105.
After two days in Geneva, I was to continue my onward journey from Geneva to Tanzania with Emirates. I checked the website for any excess luggage policies and all seemed fine until I got to the airport. While I was on the queue to drop my suitcases off, I went to their desk to ask about the excess luggage and to have an idea what I would be asked to do. In my mind, I knew I would be sent there to pay. With Emirates, the luggage allowance was less by 6Kg so in total I had excess of 14Kg. After telling the man how much excess I had, he informed me that the fee would be 952 Swiss francs ($979). I asked how and why. His explanation was that for travel from Africa to Europe, there is a set fee for extra. On the other hand, for travel from Europe to Africa, travelers are charged per Kg. I was charged 68sf per kilo so I had a whooping 952 Swiss francs to pay. I asked if paying online would make a difference, but I was too late as the check in counters were already operating. Had I paid online, I would have got a 10% – 20% discount.
This was going to cost even more than the ticket but I had no choice as everything in my suitcases had to go with me. When I got to the check in counter, the lady was so sweet, bless her. When she saw the amount, she said “I am afraid to tell you”, but I urged her to go on. She acknowledged that the policy of charging per kilo in one sense was not reasonable. It would make more sense to have one thing apply both ways, but oh well! She tried to see if there was any way she could help but there was absolutely nothing she could do. I made the payment and was saddened by the money I parted with.
This was enough to ruin my trip but I did not sit there brooding over what happened, that’s always the spoiler I’ve learnt. I move on from whatever bad thing happens and accept that sometimes things are not just within my control. Dwelling on them could only make the entire trip horrible.
So your turn, what travel woes would you like to share?
Happy New Year by the way 🙂