Adventures in airport terminal, and other things

Sunday October 7 2018

Murtala Muhammed Airport is a your typical

Murtala Muhammed Airport is a your typical active African airport. Net photo.  

By ANDREW KAGGWA

I love flying, and at times, the turbulence that comes with it. I have been lucky to fly overseas without a major incident, let a lone a less than two second drop while crossing the Indian Ocean to Dubai.
For the rest of the six-hour journey, even the jolliest passenger went mute, their faces easily told you they were scared. None of this ever gets to me like sitting through the terminal waiting for a connecting flight.

My hustle
My last flight was between Uganda and Nigeria. Since at the moment we do not have flight that connects us directly to Lagos, a Ugandan travelling to the land of green and white can never avoid long transit hours.

For instance, Emirates airlines will drop you in Dubai while Rwandair or Kenya Airways will take you through Nairobi.
A Ugandan travelling to Lagos, Nairobi is safer going through than Dubai, Johannesburg or even Addis Ababa; it is not fun being flown around Europe and Asia when the final destination is still an African country.
This particular journey started in Entebbe, everything here went as planned and at the right time, I was on board waiting for the first stopover which was Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, a spacious playground for aircrafts, this airport makes ours look like a potato garden.
Their security check ins, workforce and ambiance, make it the airport you want in a movie scene, the one a foreign friend gets to and starts taking back all the ugly things he/she imagined Africa would be.

Fateful turn
Initially, I was meant to spend three hours in the terminal before my connecting flight to Lagos, but as fate would have it, after landing in Nairobi, the travel agency sent me a message that my flight had been delayed.
This meant more roaming and incidentally more time converting the duty free US dollars figures into Ugandan shillings, just to know how big a damage each purchase I made could make.
Most of the times I window shop but buy nothing in the end. For instance, I choose to wait for those snack meals served on-board to take me through the flight instead of giving in to the highway robbery that is duty free.
And who needed a snack anyway when you can get free Wi-Fi once in a while? I had learnt of the Wi-Fi from a friend, one I connected with as we both waited for flights, she was going to Dubai and she had been around longer than me.
This fine Kenyan had directed me to one of the desks where I could get a Wi-Fi password, yes, it was free internet but not really free, there was an internet password desk whose attendant personally entered the code on your phone, the unfortunate was it expiring when she had taken a lunch break.
I have learnt that Nigerians are aggressive and can choose to fail to understand your explanations, thus, after hours of waiting for our connecting flight, they started arguing with everyone they deemed to be airport staff.
When they started complaining, as a Ugandan, I was sure whatever was delaying our flight was going to be sorted in the quickest time possible and it indeed was.
Within the next five hours, we had landed in Lagos, and another terminal to deal with, it was 11pm West African Time.
Nigeria could be the biggest African economy at the moment, but the order at Murtala Muhammed International Airport does not suggest that.
At night it is a well-lit space with people too busy either helping others get boarding passes or weigh luggage, but the mediocrity with which they do this still shows.
The dramatic queue
An officer sent one of the Kenyan girls to the wrong queue only to be chased by another angry officer - much of the workforce was of course angry and loud.
But the deal breaker was how airport employees kept begging almost every foreigner for ‘water’ and ‘juice’, it was like the unwanted ‘welcome to Lagos’ greeting.

Loitering at the airport
On our way back though, many of us had devised means to avoid them. As we had feared, our flight had been rescheduled without communication. For about two hours, we kept loitering the seemingly abandoned terminal buying food stuffs.
On returning to the gates, the same guy that had previously asked for ‘water’ would ask again. If the past lie was that Nigerian girls took all the water money, you always needed a fresh lie.
A handful of Ugandans ended up giving up the loose Nairas we had and later Shs1,000 notes that we told them was equivalent to $20… Imagine how they might have reacted on learning they were looking at less than one Naira!
The journey still ended in another terminal six-hour wait but as you could imagine, another specialist managed to delay this flight too.

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