By Samson Echenim
Turkish Airline, as the name of an airline operating into Nigeria, is one that quickly comes to mind as “the missing baggage airline”; and it should not surprise anyone.
The airline is known for arriving Nigerian airports without passengers’ baggage and the airline does not seem to care. At least, the missing baggage syndrome is still very much with the airline.
From the talk table to the court, the appropriate Nigerian authorities, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), have engaged the airline, howbeit, without success.
On December 25, 2015, the Eastern European carrier, flew into Lagos Murtala Mohammed International Airport without baggage of half of its passengers. Many Nigerians who were coming home to mark Christmas, unfortunately did so at the airport, while still waiting for their luggage.
About two weeks later, on January 9, 2016, the airline committed a similar blunder, this time on a higher degree, when it flew into the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja from its Istanbul headquarters at about 12.35am without its passengers’ luggage, and thereby violating the rights of its passengers, who were largely Nigerians.
This led the Federal Government of Nigeria to drag the airlines before a Federal High Court in Abuja, where it alleged criminal violation of the rights of some Nigerian passengers on its Flight 623 from Istanbul to Abuja.
Attorney General of the federation and minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami filed a three-count charge against the airline as well as chairman of its board, Liker Ayci, and commercial manager, Rasak Shobowale.
The government also accused the company of violating the enabling law of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC).
The Nigerian government claimed that the three accused persons between December 20, 2015 and March 2016, “without sufficient cause, refused to provide the Consumer Protection Council documents on Turkish Airlines’ policy on delayed baggage,” thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 18 of the CPC Act.
The Federal Government also accused the airline and its two principal officers of violating the same section of the CPC Act by neglecting, without sufficient cause, to attend and testify before the consumer protection agency on the detailed steps taken by the airline to provide redress and compensation to passengers aboard its Flight 623 from Istanbul to Abuja on the said dates, who were affected by its untimely delivery of baggage.
The prosecution came on the heels of persistent refusal of Turkish Airlines to respond to lawful requests of CPC for a full situation report on the airline’s alleged shoddy treatment of passengers of Flight 623 from Istanbul to Abuja on December 25 and 31, 2015 as well as January 9, 2016, which prompted the council to approach the Justice Minister for the prosecution of the airline.
However, the airline has continued suffering the “missing baggage syndrome” mostly on its flights to Nigeria, with some cases going unreported. On one recent flight to Nigeria, the airline left a whopping 85 percent of passenger bags in Istanbul.
And as it appears, the Nigerian government has just about seen enough of the airline’s affront against citizens of the country who have been suffering the carrier’s seeming deliberately orchestrated carelessness to cause pain and anguish to Nigerians.
Turkish Airline suspended from Nigeria
Therefore, it came with no shock that the NCAA moved to ban the airline from coming to Nigeria again after another case of series of flights with missing baggage and it seems like that is just what fits the airline for now. In a letter NCAA/ DG/12/16/60 directed to the airline’s country manager, December 11, 2019, Captain Abdullahi Sidi, director-general of the authority lamented the baggage backlog has been on-going for two weeks.
NCAA noted that the incessant baggage delays had caused crisis followed by mob actions as the airline arrives without 85 percent of passengers’ baggage.
“The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) wishes to extend its compliments to Turkish Airlines and also express its serious displeasure about the recent cases of not bringing passengers’baggage into Nigeria together with their checked-in baggage.
“These incidents, which has been going on for two weeks, has become so bad that the most recent flight arrived without 85 percent of passengers’ baggage onboard. Our airport authority has been facing serious crises controlling the passengers at the airport whenever they arrive without their baggage. This issue has made passengers to carry out several mob actions at our airport and it is a great threat to our airport facilities
‘In view of all these, and the series of meetings held with Turkish Airlines personnel, which did not yield any solution to the problem, the NCAA is therefore left with no option than to direct Turkish Airline to suspend its operations into Nigeria until such a time when the airline is ready to operate with the right size of aircraft that can transport all passengers with their baggage at the same.”
Passengers happy with airline’s ban
Passengers have been complaining about issues for a few weeks now. But it’s not only the fact that bags are being left behind. Passengers are also upset with how the airline has been handling complaints from those who have been frustratingly left without luggage. One passenger, upon hearing about the ban, said, “Nice one. I experienced it on Sunday night. Thank God I was able to get my bags on Monday night,”
Why is baggage being left behind?
According to Simpleflying, Turkish Airlines makes a lot of money by charging excess and oversize baggage fees. Recently, it hasn’t been restricting the number of bags passengers are allowed to check-in. This means that its aircraft’s cargo hold cannot hold all the bags.
Even if the airline is aware that the hold is full, it does not restrict anyone from booking extra bags. Even if the plane is at maximum capacity and bags have to be left behind, the airline will continue to take money for luggage it knows it cannot transport.
Turkish Airlines declines comment
The airline, in its characteristic manner, would not comment on the matter. So far, Turkish Airlines has not issued an official statement or responded to the Nigerian government’s statement. Nor have they responded to media request for comment. It is unclear what course of action the airline will now take before the ban comes into effect on Monday (Today).
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