Sunday, July 26th, 2020, was another day some airline staff at the Port Harcourt airport frustrated my planned trip along with other disappointed passengers.
My flight was supposed to leave the domestic wing of Port Harcourt Airport at 1700 hours on Sunday, July 26th 2020 for Lagos. I booked online and went ahead to check-in online even before leaving my house which is less than 30 minutes drive to Port Harcourt Airport, Omagwa.
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I left my house at 1500 hours believing that at this period of COVID-19 there would be more security and medical checks hence more time was needed for me to be at the airport before the departure time at 1700 hours in order to pass through all the security checks. Contrary to my expectation, the only medical check was infra-red thermometers as security checks were still as before the COVID-19 pandemic.
I passed through all the security and medical checks in less than 3 minutes, collected my boarding pass along with other passengers when it was our turn to start boarding.
After the final security and medical checks were concluded we were ushered into a waiting airport bus on the tarmac which was taking us to our plane. It was raining, hence, there was no way we in the bus could have left the bus that was meant to convey us from our final screening point to the tarmac where our plane was parked in case we wanted to break security protocol at the airport.
After staying in the bus for more than 20 minutes, I asked the driver what was holding us back, he said that an airline staff communicated with him that there was a pregnant woman still passing through security checks, hence we should wait for her to join us. We relaxed and sat comfortably in the bus.
We obeyed the driver because even the bible made it clear that we must be submissive to all authorities hence the driver’s authority was not an exception. We believed that the officials must have communicated with the pilot and his crew on the latest development. I checked my wristwatch, it was not yet 1700 hours hence, why should I be worried?
When the pregnant lady finally entered the bus, the airport driver reversed the bus to take us to our flight but the unthinkable happened in the next few seconds. The flight we were supposed to travel with had already begun to taxi on the runway and was quickly approaching the downwind end of the runway which meant we had missed the flight.
I was dumbfounded. For the next 10 minutes, I was speechless. I got back to my senses when one of my co-passengers shouted: “Oga driver ,shebi I tell you make you carry us go to our plane first, then you come back come carry the pregnant woman wey dey delay us ,you say make I know teach you your work. Shebi,you don see where your work you know wan make I teach you, don land us ?’’
The airport bus driver was so devastated began to blame the officials of the airline who communicated to him not to take us to the plane but same officials failed to communicate with the pilot and his crew about the latest development.
The blame game continued. Some of the airport officers in the departure area blamed us for not taking the laws into our own hands by alighting from the airport bus and running in the rain to our plane, which to me was another way of breaking security measures at the airport? The driver of the airport bus was so pathetic and remorseful but he had to shift the blame to others, he simply directed us to speak to a staff of the airline who was leaving the tarmac. The driver’s trick worked as we all sheepishly alighted from his bus and pursued the lady to the airline’s desk office in the airport.
The staff of the airline realized their mistake in not communicating with the pilot and his crew while they were delayed us.
There was a twist of event when a fair and tall guy came into the picture. He was not in uniform and there was no identity card on him. He blamed us for coming late to the airport. Infuriated with his line of thought, I asked him what was his definition of being late for a flight? If being in the airport more than one hour before the departure of one’s flight was part of his definition of being late, then he needed to go back to elementary school.
My question now is, who will bear the brunt of the surcharges the airline will demand from us for rescheduling a flight they made us miss? Will we be paid damages for the various appointments we missed in Lagos?
What of the appointment that we missed on Sunday night in Lagos, who will pay us for the damages? Why did the pilot begin to taxi the runway before 1700 hours as stipulated on our tickets?
Now that I booked my flight under ‘’Round-trip’’ as against ‘’One-way trip’’ who will now foot the bill of rescheduling my Wednesday‘s return flight since its rescheduling is caused by my inability to travel on Sunday, which was not caused by me, because if I had gone to Lagos on Sunday I would have returned to Port Harcourt on Wednesday morning.
That is what incompetence, ineptitude and lack of coordination among some airline staff have caused me and other co-passengers.
I challenge the management of the said airline to investigate this matter. The pilot and his crew who began to taxi the runway before 1700 hours stipulated by our schedule should be made to face the penalty if found guilty. The money used to reschedule my flight is not an issue but how long can this ineptitude be allowed to continue in our public places?
Dr Paul John writes from Port Harcourt firstname.lastname@example.org