Normally we fly from Boise, but because we were flying from NYC to Ghana, an entire new set of travel results appeared on the radar when we did our online search for airline tickets. At the top of the result list, with a price far lower than any other, was Arik Air, a Nigerian airline, with passage to Ghana via Lagos, Nigeria. On June 8, we left JFK Airport in New York and flew to Lagos. The flight was fine. Consistent with some reviews we had read, there were enough blankets for about half of the passengers and the inflight entertainment system did not work, but we arrived safely in Nigeria. Five hours later, I was typing this post as we flew from Lagos to Accra, but not before a little excitement during the layover.
We landed in Lagos and proceeded to immigration with the other passengers. Very quickly but somewhat casually, all non-Nigerian travelers not staying in Nigeria but who were simply transferring to a different flight to another country were herded together. They took our passports and told us to sit down on chairs, pretty much in the middle of the immigration area. Luggage was arriving on the belt behind us, so we tried to watch for our luggage in the distance as we sat and waited for whatever was going to happen with our passports in the other half of the hall in front of us.
Eventually a lady, in no particular uniformed attire, was assigned to the group of us, which included African Americans, one Ghanaian, one lady from the Congo who didn’t speak English, and us (Stacey, Halle and me). The lady told us that our luggage would be checked through to our ultimate destination, and that because we don’t have Nigerian visas, and because our flight check-in time was still a few hours away, we had to remain in her custody, if you will, and she would have to keep our passports while we waited in a “comfortable lounge”. Sounds pleasant enough, but the entire process was extremely odd and far from comfortable.
The twelve of us followed her past the luggage belt, out the hall, around the corner, down an elevator (half of the group at a time because the elevator was too small), past people sleeping on the floor, through a dormant-now-active security checkpoint operated by two of the previous sleeping-on-the-floor people, down the hall, up a wooden spiral staircase, and into the “comfortable” lounge. After sitting in this room for an hour or so, the lady told us to leave our things (i.e., our carryon luggage, which was essentially the most valuable items the twelve of us were traveling with) in the room and follow her to get our boarding tickets for our next flight. The majority of us made a protest and/or expressed a concern about leaving our goods in the unlocked and unmanned room. Whereupon we were essentially berated and told via near shouts that our things would be fine. It was all so odd that we all strangely cowered and obeyed, regretting our decision a mere 1-2 minutes later with amazement.
Ultimately our passports were returned to us, with boarding passes, and we made it to Ghana safely. And in fairness to Arik Air and the Lagos Airport personnel, after the experience was behind us, we found ourselves trying to convince ourselves that everything had been fine. But we don’t intend to travel home via Lagos.