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Ameyaw Says

What a Trip!!! Oluwa saves my Arik Air flight from crashing after finding my lost passport at Heathrow



Yes, my recent trip to the UK was destined to be the most eventful one yet. From a troubled flight from Accra-Lagos-London which resulted in me losing my luggage (read here) and eventually finding it (read here), and then sharing a table with wife of former British Prime Minster, Tony Blair (read here).

Hmm, little did I know that the biggest wahala was waiting for me on my return home to Ghana. I left Luton for the Heathrow Airport around 4pm so I could make it in time for my 9.30pm flight to Lagos. The train arrived at Heathrow terminal 4 around 6pm and since it was my first time using that terminal, I spent some time looking for the Arik Air check-in desk and after looking around I found it and went straight ahead to check in.

I wanted to check in early so I would have ample time to chase after the VAT refund on some of the items I had purchased. I immediately made my way to the VAT refund office and to my surprise found a rather intimidating queue. I had missed out on collecting refunds in my last two visits to the UK because I didn’t arrive at the airport early enough to go through the process before boarding, and I was bent on collecting it this time around.

A lady who was in the queue with me suggested that since we both had the items we wanted to collect the refunds on in our hand luggage, we could use the other VAT Refund office located in the duty free area. I immediately made my way to the general boarding gate, went through the security scan and search, and then went straight ahead to locate the VAT refund office.

Greetings from the UK with plenty wahala!!!!

Again, I met quite a queue but I wasn’t daunted by it. By this time it was around 7: 30 and I had enough time before the boarding time, 8.30. I joined the queue which was made up of mainly Asians and gradually I got my chance to give my receipts to the official so he could verify them. I had not signed all my receipts so I was asked to step aside and complete the forms.

Once I was ready I just jumped into the line and this time had my receipts stamped after showing the items for which I had the receipts for. With the verification done, I now had to join another queue that headed to the cashier who would pay the refund. I kept looking at my watch and just around 8.30pm, I had my chance to receive my cash. After receiving the money I looked for my boarding gate and after a very long walk, I got there!

Feeling a bit tired from the long day that started with a train ride from Luton, I decided to go to the washroom to take a piss, because I had been holding it in all that while. I took off my jacket and backpack to place on am empty seat while I made a quick dash into the washroom. When I got back from the washroom, I decided to take out my passport and boarding pass so I would sit and wait for the boarding call.

Suddenly my passport and boarding pass were nowhere to be found. I started to fret because I knew I had both on my when I got to the boarding area. I emptied my bag and all the pockets of my jacket to search but still nothing… Now I was getting really worried. I then located a few of the people that I walked to the boarding gate with, to ask if they had by any chance seen my passport; the answers were no! Soon, all sorts of ideas running in my mind, at some point I thought someone had even stolen my passport so they could doctor  it and use in the future (forgive the stereotype but after all I was on a Nigerian

How I shared a table with Cherie Blair, wife of former British PM, Tony Blair

After looking around and not getting any results I went to the desk at the boarding gate to report that my passport was missing. They asked me for my details and only got back to me saying that I had two bags checked in – information I already knew and didn’t want to know. I wanted them to announce my passport missing so that if anyone had seen it, he or she would bring it. Instead the official I spoke to told me that since I had about 30 minutes left I could go all the way back to the security check point to be double sure that I didn’t leave it while I was going through the scanner.

I told him I had it on me after all the checks but he wouldn’t listen so I decided to go back and search just in case… As I went out looking for it, I heard the boarding call and that even made me more confused. I kept asking myself what was going to happen; would they allow me on the flight? What would I do when I get to Lagos? And how would I finally get to Ghana without a passport? So I decided to heard back to the desk and ask for the next step to take, as I’m no expert on international laws. Fortunately, when I got back, a man asked me if I had misplaced my passport and well, I said yes.

Then immediately I heard an announcement with a funny pronunciation of my name, to the effect that my passport had been found. I immediately rushed to the desk for my passport. I later found out that I had left it on a seat, and I am still wondering how it happened because I checked all the seats around and couldn’t find it. Anyway with the passport found and the gates opened for boarding all I could think about was going home in peace… So we boarded the flight, which took off finally but not without some initial drama. A male passenger kept arguing with flight attendants because he couldn’t find space in the top compartment to keep his hand luggage and so his bag had to be taken into the back cabin.

Meanwhile, the flight had been delayed just because this same man was late in boarding the flight. As he kept going at the flight attendants, some of the other passengers had to tell him their peace of mind which made the case even worse but eventually there was calm and the flight was running smoothly. We had some refreshment and some warm meal. I opted for chicken and yam which came with beans and some green veggies. I was surprised with the taste and I loved it, next time I go to Nigeria I will look for a restaurant that serves that. The desert was pretty awesome as well.  Since the Arik entertainment option wasn’t really my cup of tea (out-dated movies and music) I was looking forward to a cool nap to digest the meal I had enjoyed. But before the flight attendants could clear our trays, there was suddenly severe turbulence that sent the passengers in a frenzy.

Even before the captain could make an announcement on the condition, the plane suddenly filled up with prayers. The prayers heightened with the intensity of the turbulence and I could see some obvious shock on the faces of the non-Nigerian passengers, particularly the white folks. The flight turned into a church and it became evident that the flight attendants had lost control and could do very little to calm the nerves of passengers, most of whom had resorted to prayers; all kinds of prayers and in all kinds of languages.

Some kissed on their rosaries while praying, and I saw one lady kissing and reading a small piece of paper which seemed to have some doctrine on it. The turbulence lasted for well over two hours, and the church service went on with prayers and singing. I could hear the words, ‘oluwa’ and ‘yesu’ in the chorus of prayers and as it went on and on I tried to make sense of everything and just hope for the best. At some point I just shut my eyes and took a nap. When I opened my eyes probably some 50 minutes later, the church was slowly coming to an end and there seemed to be some calm.

An old lady next to me said something in Yoruba and when I asked what it meant her friend explained that she was saying ‘I salute you’ – perhaps for my seeming nerves of steel throughout the chaos. Yes, it may have been the most intense turbulence I had ever experienced but somehow I believed it wasn’t going to end my life. With calm restored on the plane, soon some passengers started to make fun of everything that had transpired. People could now use the lavatory and as was expected, there was a long queue to all lavatories on the plane.

We had a final round of refreshment before landing at the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos. Well, I guess I don’t have to tell you the atmosphere in the plane when we finally landed. There was singing of praise and thanksgiving songs as one particular gentleman, (a pastor I presumed) who had emerged as the prayer leader throughout the chaos, said his final prayers and I even joined in saying ‘amen!’ I immediately made my way to immigration so I would have enough time to make my connecting flight to Ghana.

Just to make sure I don’t go through the hustle of losing my bags like I did on my way to London, I passed by the luggage pick up carousel to see if my bags could be there and I was told by the Arik official that it would be connected straight to Accran – just the Arik staff in Heathrow assured me.  On my way to the departures, I met Agyamang, who was on the same flight and was connecting to Accra with me. He wasn’t so sure about his bags so he went to the Arik office to make double sure.

Since I had just a hand luggage on me, I went for my boarding pass and made my way to immigration for final checks before heading to the boarding gate. I found out that the gate on the boarding pass was not the one we would be using so I made my way to the new boarding gate where we had to wait for several minutes before boarding commenced. We went through final security checks at that boarding gate and were then directing to board our flight via another gate. Hmm, at this point tempers were flying high as most passengers felt tortured not only by the delay but the cumbersome procedure. I was more than happy to be going home so I didn’t bother too much.

We got on board and in about 45 minutes we were at the Kotoka International Airport. Just as we exited, I saw that Agyemang, who was on business class ticket, was speaking to an Arik official at the tunnel so I joined to find out what was going on. Then I found out that our fears had indeed materialised – our bags could not make it to Accra!! The Arik Air staff had to come and meet us at the tunnel because there was apparently a call from Nigeria because of the stress Agyemang had gone through to make sure his bags came to Ghana; so they had to send someone to calm him down and give him the assurance that his bags would come with the evening flight to Accra.

And well, of course he was on a business class ticket! It was the same for me and there seemed to be little we could do. But then, another call came through saying that one of Agyemang’s bags came through so we decided to go to the collection point to pick his bag…and just in case my bags came along too. Well, even the said bag didn’t turn up so we finally made our way to the lost and found office to fill a complaint form detailing our ‘lost’ luggage. We were told that that the next Arik flight would arrive at 5 pm and when our bags came we would be contacted that same evening. Well I called the office phone number at 6pm and I was told that the plane had not landed.

I later called Agyemang and he told me that he had been told that the flight had been delayed, and would now arrive at 8pm. At this point I just gave up and went to sleep so I could have some much needed rest. The following morning, I received a call from the office, saying that my bags are ready for collection. Needless to say, I rushed to the airport and for goodness sake, I got my bags with everything intact. I guess now I can answer the question I asked when my lost luggage was returned to me in Luton. Yes, when you lose a bag in Ghana, you may get it back in mint condition, just that you will have to go and pick it up from the airport yourself….Laugh out Loud!!!!



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