Nigeria, Baggage, a ban on Turkish Airlines

If you’re at Heathrow any time a flight is heading to say Jamaica or Nigeria you’ll always know. For reasons I’ve never completely understood, passengers on those flights take more baggage, much, much, much more baggage than seems even vaguely comprehensible.

Big screen TV’s, kitchen sinks (and I’ve seen that twice), vast suitcases, trolleys piled high. Airlines like Virgin Atlantic and BA actually allow more luggage as standard on these flights because that’s what the market demands.

And so does Turkish Airlines. It operates four flights a day to Nigeria ranging from 737’s to A330’s.

This week Nigeria’s government told the airline it would suspend its flying rights to the country if it didn’t sort out a luggage problem. Saying that there were “uncontrollable mob actions” by upset passengers.

Nigeria’s airports say 85% of luggage isn’t turning up with passengers and it’s causing mayhem at airports and it blames Turkish Airlines.

Turkish isn’t officially saying anything but my enquires lead me to understand that the low tax and cheap prices in Istanbul’s airports and duty free zones, cause near panic buying among these flights passengers and by the time passengers get to the aircraft, there simply isn’t room to pack it all in. There’s almost as much of an issue at the gate as big items are taken away to be loaded on board, often at extra cost which is another point of contention.

Turkish will ship luggage it can’t fit on the next available flight, but when most flights have the same problem, it can take time and expense to ship it all to Nigeria. Then it’s up to the customer to collect it and deal with the notoriously difficult (ie you might need to pay a special “fee”) customs.

Of course if luggage is being taken at the gate, customers assume even when told it might not get on board it will somehow have managed to fit, so when they arrive in Nigeria and it’s not there arguments begin, leading apparently to riots.

Just to add spice to the whole saga, Turkish says it knows nothing of the planned suspension of its operations!

Turkish could simply ban baggage at the gate from being checked, and stop charging and accepting it, that would stop the problem, but when customers are said to be checking 15,000lbs of extra luggage per flight the revenue from that is high.

This to my mind is an enforcement issue at the Turkish end. They’re not managing the issue or customer expectations and because they’re taking the cash, and not refusing carriage, it’s causing mayhem on arrival.

Turkish Airlines has a pretty poor reputation when it comes to dealing with problems. When everything goes well people love it. When it goes wrong you’re pretty much on your own.

Addendum

Since this was first written, Turkish Airlines have agreed to upgrade the aircraft on the routes from 737’s to A330’a and the previously A330 routes to 777’s. Quite how that’s going to guarantee solving the problem isn’t certain. More seats means more passengers and more luggage- it need rigidly enforced rules to stop the abuse by passengers, and the almost equal abuse by the airline of taking money and not always providing the service of delivering luggage.