By Ajuma Edwina Ameh
Anger was let loose at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport, Calabar as passengers on an Abuja-Calabar flight landed without their luggage.
The Nigerian airline — Aero contractors — abandoned passenger’s luggage to conserve fuel as there was scarcity of fuel in Calabar, Persecondnews learnt.
The officials of the airline said the plane needed to make a return trip from Calabar to Lagos, hence they had to leave passengers’ luggage to shed off some weight in order to conserve fuel for the trip.
“While we were boarding, the airline officials told us that there was an embargo placed on luggage by the airline to reserve fuel.
“At the check-in counter, some of us were assured that our luggage would be carried along as the embargo applies to people with more than one or big luggage.
“I told them I was going for a workshop and need my bag; a small backpack. My luggage along with a few others, were cleared by FAAN, and we even saw it at the foot of the airline while boarding.
“I was shocked and angry when I did not see my luggage on arrival. I was told my luggage will arrive tomorrow by 5:30 p.m. They just brought our luggage to the foot of the airline to deceive us into believing our bags would be taken along,” an astonished passenger, a journalist, Bishop Onche, said.
Another passenger, a young lady, who declined speaking to Persecondnews, as she was frustrated and angry, was seen crying profusely at the airport, lamenting that she travelled to Calabar for an exam only for her box which contained all the necessary documents needed for the exams to be left behind in Abuja.
Checks by Persecondnews discovered that other passengers at the airline’s desk in Calabar have had their luggage abandoned for two days.
Some of them were at the Margret Ekpo International Airport to confirm whether their abandoned luggage had come from Abuja.
A passenger, Udom Blessing Matthew, who came to Calabar for a wedding, said she arrived on Aero contractor’s 3.10 pm flight on Friday, October 8, 2021, only to discover her luggage was left behind in Abuja.
“I left Abuja on Friday for a wedding which was supposed to hold yesterday (Saturday), the dress and hair I was supposed to wear at the wedding are in my luggage and this is Sunday I still haven’t got them.
“I just came in here today to see if my luggage has arrived, only to discover mine is still not here. I have been wearing the same clothes and inner wears since Friday,” a disappointed Udom said.
She noted that despite the disdain with which they were being treated by the airline, she is yet to receive either a call, text message or even an email about her luggage.
Another Abuja-Calabar bound passenger, a sound engineer, Nuel, who was on the flight, said he was at the airport to pick his luggage.
According to Nuel, he had some important items in his luggage and he was not pre-informed that his luggage would be dumped to shed some weight off the aircraft.
“We arrived here on Friday so they said the aircraft was overcrowded or something and they couldn’t carry our bags. I left and came here on Saturday to claim it, and they said there was no flight yesterday and that is why I came today.
“This is past 4 p.m. and I have been here since the past one hour and nobody has said anything,” Nuel said.
Commenting on the incident, the Manager, Aero contractors in Calabar, Mr Victor Dan, said he had called Abuja and was told that the bags would come in on Monday afternoon.
An official of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), who simply identified himself as Bruno, said this is not the first time the airline would treat passengers in such manner.
According to Bruno, shedding of weight on airlines is not new in Nigeria, but the NCAA Act mandates the airline in question to inform all the affected passengers before take off.
“And even after take off, the airline is expected to pay a compensation to the affected passengers while ensuring that the luggage is taken to the passengers at wherever or whatever address they make available,” Bruno said.
He made complaints forms available for passengers who were still present at the Margret Ekpo International Airport to fill while promising to follow up on the matter.
Bruno said NCAA would ensure that compensation is paid and luggage delivered to the affected passengers.