Jola Naibi

Writer and amateur photog. I seek to inspire and inform with the words I write and share and the photos I take. I have written a book of short stories: Terra Cotta Beauty, and I am working on a lot more. Reading and writing fuel my energy. In reading, I explore this vast and diverse world, in writing, I employ my over-active imagination and address the 'what-if' questions that life often throws at us.

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(The Hassle of) Air Travel in the 21st Century

By on August 30, 2007

Flying is not what it used to be. These days every one seems to have some horror story to tell about long waits at airports coupled with extensive security checks. And while the woes that one has to deal with at the airport fall into a class of their own, it seems that the airlines are now in the business of meting out their own form of punishment to the passengers…sadly this applies to domestic, regional and intercontinental flights.

Consider this – a colleague of mine had to fly to Malawi recently for work-related reasons. On arriving at her destination she was told that her luggage was not on the flight. Her initial thoughts were that she might have to make do without a few essentials (not least of which were some of the work-related materials she had packed for her trip) for a couple of days at the most. Days turned into weeks and her luggage never showed up. When she returned to the States (still sans luggage) and continued her incessant calls to the airline officials, she was simply told that they had no explanation for her lost luggage and that they were willing to compensate her for the monetary value of her property. Of course, you can imagine she is seething with rage, no one wants to hear that their property has disappeared into thin air.

The same sort of explanation was given to a Nigerian family that we know whose daughter was getting married stateside. The couple getting married live in the US and the family decided to save them the hassle of traveling home to get married. Plans were set in motion to have a modest yet elegant wedding stateside. Planning began at least a year early and it was decided that bride’s mother would come over about a month before the event, loaded with the aso ebi that everyone and their grandmama would use for the wedding engagement. Aso ebi had been paid for in advance and the mother of the bride recruited her younger sister to accompany her on the trip to the states. The latter traveled with her three children in order to (I believe) maximize the luggage requirements and allow them to be able to accommodate the needs of everyone and their grandmama who had requested for the aso ebi. Included in their luggage was the matching aso ebi that the bride and groom would wear on the day of the engagement – wonderfully embroidered to suit contemporary styles in Nigeria. The group of five set off and made a brief two-day stop-over in London before continuing over to the States.

They were not unusually troubled when upon arriving they did not have their luggage and assumed that it was on its way. Well when days started to turn to weeks, everyone and their grandmama became frantic. All of a sudden the airline is telling them that their luggage is nowhere to be found. The disappearing act of the pieces of luggage was attributed by some as the work of the Enemy and there were instant rejections of this peppered with the words ‘It is not our portion’ . The clock was ticking. A number of frantic transatlantic calls were made followed by a lot of scurrying about in Nigeria. It was up to the folks in Nigeria who had not yet departed those shores to coordinate the series of events which would lead to a new set of aso ebi, etc being ordered and made. I imagine a lot of tailors must have worked round the clock, because on the day of the wedding engagement – there was not a person who did not have the aso ebi that they had ordered which had been transported courtesy of two siblings (of the groom), the two fathers and a handful of loyal family friends.

I’ll leave you to imagine the loud sigh of relief that emanated from everyone connected to this episode when the next set of travelers arrived with their luggage intact.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, people were still awaiting news from the airline (We Naija people are a resilient bunch…we don’t give up that easily)…it turned out it was (and still is) a wait in vain

The wedding engagement day came and went, as did the wedding (which by the way was a beautiful occasion ~ the bride looked stunning and the groom looked dashing without a trace of the maelstrom they had endured from one of the world’s leading airlines on them), the couple went for their honeymoon and came back to begin their lives together, relatives and friends who had come to witness the union returned home and the luggage is yet to be found! The airline wrote a one-paragraph letter of apology and has promised a monetary compensation. And somewhere in the world…there are several pieces of luggage containing among other things colorful pieces of gele, fila, iborun, ipele, waiting to be redirected to their righful owner. Or perhaps not. In the middle of the drama, someone had suggested that the baggage may have spitefully been stolen from the airport in the UK where it was last seen by (of all people) a fellow Nigerian who has used it for their own wedding. If someone did do that … I guess we have no choice but to leave them to their conscience and all the attendant goodies that karma brings with it when it stops over for a visit.

On a lighter note, while all this drama was going on – I came across the following websites for the weary 21st century air traveler. Not tried and tested by yours truly, I was drawn to the concept and decided to share…courtesy of the July 2007 Edition of Reader’s Digest

Flylite – recommended to very frequent fliers who seem to be off again even before they have unpacked from the previous trip. You register, send them a packed suitcase with your traveling essentials and they do the rest. Just let them know when you have to take off and when you will be at your destination and they send you your stuff. They also pick it up when you are ready to leave and are happy to start the cycle again. So based on my interpretation, they promise to be there for you from NY to Melbourne.

Airtroductions – I found this concept very interesting and welcome anyone who has tried (or tries this) with success to please let me know how it worked (works) out. According to them, you can make your flight more interesting and choose the person who sits next to you by building a profile and entering your itinerary and you match and sit next to them during your flight. From what I gather, the company does not do the matches you get to do this yourself (so they are extracted from any blame if you are put next to someone whose character you decide is unsavory)

Farecast – recommended for seasoned pennypinchers like me. The site provides you with fare predictions and lets you know when fares will rise or drop…so you know the best time to buy

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8 Comments
  1. Reply

    Anonymous

    August 30, 2007

    Have used Airtroductions several times. met a guy i did business with, met a pretty woman and had dinner in shanghai, and met a guy who I played golf with in manchester.

  2. Reply

    Anonymous

    August 31, 2007

    Flylite doesn’t do international, actually, they really don’t do anything… FedEx is much better!

  3. Reply

    Anonymous

    August 31, 2007

    Great article, thank you! I wanted to add one bit of information if you don’t mind. In addition to the three methods you mention, there’s also Global Bag Tag. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but they’re inexpensive and well worth it.

  4. Reply

    Jola Naibi

    September 3, 2007

    @anon 1 – thabs fir stopping by to let us know your favorable experiences with airtroductions…it is good to know that it is not just one of those concepts that is good on paper

    @anon 2 – thanks for stopping by…very useful comment,

    @anon 3 – Thanks for the tip on Global Bag Tag…I have always thought that it makes sense to tag your luggage whether you are on a domestic or international trip…although someone said that the tags are removable and are sometimes removed by baggage handlers or security personnel (most times by mistake)…but that being said, is the worst case scenario and the concept of Global Bag tag is like you say ‘inexpensive’ and saves the weary traveller additional hassle. Thanks again for sharing

  5. Reply

    catwalq

    September 8, 2007

    That is why I always pray strongly.
    God knows I cannot afford to loose my luggage…

  6. Reply

    SOLOMONSYDELLE

    September 9, 2007

    This was good to read. In all my traveling, my luggage has never been lost but thee options are worth looking into.

  7. Reply

    Ayo Aladejebi

    September 13, 2007

    Jola here we go again! Yet another flying palaver. I have often wondered if there isn’t something sinister about how luggage emanating out of or coming into Nigeria (and Africa as a whole).

    Somehow, you cannot but marvel at the rate at which thousands of passengers lose their luggage on flight to and fro the continent. While it may be quite speculative on our part that we are been purposely treated as sub-humans by these elite airlines who are quite aware that if this had been done to a non Nigerian (or African for that matter), they would be prepared to have the likes of Johnnie Cochran on their legal team.

    Imagine, who insulting it can sound for an airline to issue a one line paragraph with the promise of monetary compensation! It makes you wonder if the whole talk of customer service is not a big charade. The only way to make these airlines more responsible and be accountable for every luggage that gets on their plane is to slam them with big law suites.

    It is high time we stopped exhibiting the mentality of resiliency especially in the face of blatant infringement on our human rights. While I would not want to blame the people in your story for proceeding to get another set of aso igbeyawo, aso ebi, anko etc, I think they missed the opportunity to bring the case into limelight as they could have actually infused this into their wedding planning and bring to the limelight their experience in the hands of this callous and insouciant airline.

    I can only imagine what I would have done if I had been in their shoes, I can only imagine.

  8. Reply

    Jola Naibi

    September 13, 2007

    @catwalq – Especially now that there is the possibility that your luggage can disappear into thin air. At least once upon a time, you could still have a solution and get your property back…nowadays you get compensation

    @ SS – Neither have I… and I pray we never have to experience this

    @ Ayo Aladejebi – You make a strong point…I need to add two things. First, quite a lot of people suggested that they sue but no one in the family saw any sense in it they were primarily worried that the kids have a beautiful and colorful wedding and most of the time we all kept hoping that the luggage would show up albeit late which no one wanted to contend with and the machinery went into full swing to replace the aso ebi in time for the wedding.

    Second, this luggage-losing business is actually not restricted to the trans-Africa route. Some friends of ours who live in the UK went on holiday in Spain and their luggage never showed up. They told us they had a blast with their kids (to quote the mother – clothes are over-rated anyway), but on the last day of their holiday the airline called to say they had found their luggage in another European city and would forward it to them. They opted for the airline to just leave it at theairport in the UK and picked their bags (which never went on holiday with them) on their way home.

    Another friend went from Geneva to Stockholm for a two-day business trip… and had not found her luggage a week after she returned…it never showed up!!! I am not sure if she eventually found it and need to follow up with her. All to say that these days, no one on any continent is immune. It just seems to be the way that the cookie crumbles

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