Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Coffee, Tea or YIKES!!!

Americans are fed up with domestic air service. A "passenger's bill of rights" is under consideration in Congress, and airlines report that uncivil passenger behavior is at an all time high.

But, things could be worse, you could be flying in Africa, as Micheal Gurshowitz testifies in the NY Times.

First, scheduling can be a problem:

Since few cities in Africa are connected by daily flights, the only routing my travel agent could find was one departing Accra on Dec. 23. I would arrive at 1 a.m. in Lagos, Nigeria, with a connecting flight to Douala, Cameroon’s largest city, 12 hours later. Then I would have a four-hour bus ride to Yaoundé. I passed.
A second travel agent suggested taking a bus to Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire, and then flying to Douala on Kenya Airways. This seemed like a better choice. The cheapest round-trip ticket was $666. The bus trip took 16 hours and the outbound flight was over two hours late. But the flight, when it did arrive, was very pleasant.

And it's not always easy getting through the airport either:

Offloading baggage took more than an hour. A porter nagged me to hire him, which I declined. But he insisted, telling me the customs inspector would open my bags and help himself. I relented. As we approached customs, the porter told me to give him $20 to bribe the inspector. I handed over my $20, and we sailed through. But the porter demanded another $20 for his services, and when I balked, he shouted and I was immediately surrounded by several tough-looking men. Goodbye, $20.

Then there's the cancellations:

I arrived at the Douala airport, but the flight wasn’t listed. An airport major-domo told me someone from Kenya Airways had come by saying that the flight was canceled and that he should tell passengers to return Wednesday. This was Sunday, and I was scheduled to lead a grants workshop in Ghana on Tuesday. Air Chad was checking in passengers for a flight to Lomé, the capital of Togo, in two hours. I could get from Lomé to Ghana by bus. I was overjoyed — until the ticket clerk told me Air Chad only accepts cash. The ticket was $407 and I had $200. The airport’s A.T.M. was broken. I took a cab downtown and tried three others. All were broken. No banks were open. I convinced a hotel manager to give me a “cash advance” disguised as a purchase. I hurried back to the airport and ran to the gate. When I got there, there was no plane. Four hours later, it did arrive, a 1960s Fokker F-28, all but extinct elsewhere in the world. My extra costs were more than $700. Kenya Airways would give me only a 50 percent refund for the unused return ticket.

I actually have some personal experience in the opposite direction with Rwanda Air. We bought our tickets in advance with a bank transfer, but when we got to the airport (in Tanzania), there was no record available. We showed a copy of the the transfer receipt and the manager took the name of our hotel in Kigali and said "OK you can take the flight and if there is a problem Jimmy will contact you at your hotel." She then issued us round trip paper tickets and boarding passes. Another family was trying to buy tickets at the counter but faced the same no credit cards accepted and no ATM at the airport situation as Mr. Gurshowitz describes above. However, the airline sent an employee on the flight with them to accompany them to a bank in Kigali and collect the money ex-post!


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Lagos Flights said...

Well all that seems to be based on personal experience. I have had very different experience. I have travelled africa several times for my business. I never faced any problem. A lot of companies are providing cheap flights to lagos, Accra, Harare etc. If there were any consistent problems as u have mentioned, there were no tourists in Africa. I think u need to change your travel agent.

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