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