Flying across Nigeria in a Pandemic: The Experience

Photo by Guilherme Rossi on Pexels.com

A few days ago, I was scheduled to go to Port Harcourt, Rivers State from Lagos State for an exam that I eventually skipped out on. Instead, I found myself closing the day by booking a flight to the nation’s capital instead as opposed to going off to Port Harcourt for my exam. This is one trip I do not regret as I ended up spending quality time with my family especially my big sisters, sorting out my internet service provider (ISP) issues that the service centre in Lagos could not help with, and I was able to get a new debit card in less than 20 minutes even as I had not given them any prior notice. This is what functionality looks like and I will not complain one bit, only reminisce on how much I miss this sort of ease that for some reason residing in Lagos has not been able to give.

For me, I could not find that information online and ended up having to drive to Murtala Mohammed Airport International (MMA2) and then go back to Murtala Mohammed Airport Domestic (MMA1). My flight was scheduled for 11 am but here I was still on the road praying the traffic would let up at 10:50 am. My mother made me feel at ease by letting me know that if push came to shove, I would be able to join their last flight out of the city. However, as luck would have it, I arrived at the check-in counter at exactly 10:58 am and the lady there so graciously let me through as the flight had been delayed slightly. Plus, it also helped that I did not have any luggage to check-in.

The process for flying locally differs from internationally and the protocols are not as long or tedious. Check-in begins about 2 hours prior to flight time and closes 30 minutes before boarding as opposed to international and regional flights that open 4 hours and 3 hours respectively and close 1.5 hours and 45 minutes respectively too.

On arrival at the airport, you need to find where the airline you will be using terminal is located so you do not end up going around in circles as I did. Once there, you are required to report to the disinfection counter before you can gain access to inside the airport. There is no way you would miss it. At this point, all your luggage is disinfected, you are required to wash your hands and your temperature will be taken too. If you come without a face mask, access will be denied, and they are pretty strict with enforcing that rule.

As soon as you go through, you move to where your airline is stationed and are directed to weigh any luggage that is meant to be checked in first before moving to the ticketing counter. There is usually a queue except you are there super early or during a non-peak flight time. On the ground, there are social distance cues but that is not enforced nor observed. Almost as though people do not release/ remember being closely packed can increase the risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus. As soon as your luggage is weighed and it is established you do not have to pay for the excess, you proceed to the ticket counter with a valid means of identification like; international passport, national ID, permanent voters card, driver’s license, and sometimes an ID card from school or work. They reserve the right to ask you for a different means of identification if they are not satisfied with the one you have displayed. Luckily, I have never had to have this issue and because I had nothing to check in, I went pretty quickly to the departures waiting hall where my overhead bag was sent through a scanner and I was searched as well. This whole process took slightly under 15 minutes.

While in the waiting hall, I had to stand as all the seats were taken due to the guidelines on seating to observe social distancing but did not have to do that for so long as 20 minutes later, they announced boarding for my flight, and I ended up being among the first to board the craft.

The craft was a Boeing 737 and there is something about larger crafts that make me feel at ease as opposed to the smaller ones such as the CRJ 900 etc. flight time in total was around an hour and because of the new rule of wearing face masks all through, no refreshments were given to us on this flight or at the end.

The journey back was not as seamless as they had us on a smaller craft that was independently owned by run by the airline. The flight was not as coordinated as they went with free seating which I absolutely detest and there was turbulence.

That I understand was no fault of the flight crew, but it did not help the whole show. I remember calling my mother and telling her I felt as though I was in a craft that ‘groaned and moaned’ all the way to Lagos. About an hour later, I was on the ground in one piece only to discover shortly after that my luggage was left behind.

I quickly took up serious mode and activated the tips I shared on ‘what to do when you have lost luggage’. The matter was resolved with mine and about 9 other people’s luggage coming in on the next flight even though it took about an hour to arrive.

Once I got it, I headed out of the airport enroute my humble abode only stopping about a couple of times at a restaurant and a shopping mall to get lunch which ended up being dinner and breakfast for the next day and supplies I would need in the house to survive till my next grocery haul.

So, that my friends, is my experience going from Lagos to Rivers and back in the pandemic times.

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