I Spent 2 Hours On Arrival At The Terminal 3 Kotoka International Airport Due To A Failed Baggage Claim Carousel.
Technical hitches are bound to happen but are the least expected at the brand new terminal which cost our nation 275-8 million dollars to build. It was also the last thing on my mind after travelling almost 13 hours from Atlanta to Accra; I was tired, hungry, cranky and achy in places I never knew existed. Travel isn't as glorious as you might think ye-who's-yet-to-travel-abroad.
Thankfully, there's no scramble across the tarmac to or fro from the terminal to the plane or vice-versa thanks to the modern terminal which connects the plane directly to the assigned gate. It's an easy walk straight to Customs and then to baggage claim. As I pulled my carry-on towards Ghana Customs, I couldn't help but overhear the delighted exclamations of Ghanaian diaspora who probably haven't been back home for more than 10 years on seeing and experiencing the new terminal. One lady behind me, " Ei Ghana, y3r kor y3 nim kakra kakra." [translates: Ei Ghana, we are moving forward gradually]. I smiled tiredly inwardly as we descended on the escalator towards the Customs area.
Is it me or the Passport Control counter area needs to be properly rearranged or made easier to identify? The entrance to each section needs to have some sort of banner pointing travellers in the right direction. I also didn't understand why the Ghanaian Nationals desk was all the way to the end of the building instead of being first and why are they insufficient in number? Maybe someone can further expand on that for me.
Passports checked, immigration forms collected, a second customs officer double-checks *again* 🤷🏽♀️ before finally I could walk towards the baggage claim area. It took about two minutes for the carousel to start chugging out the first luggages which of course are SKY Priority bags belonging to First & Business class travellers and SKY team members. An airport worker/baggage attendant was hauling out heavier bags onto the carousel and assisting travellers to lift out what they struggled with. I walked closer to his side so I could spot my bags early.
I bumped into my former University classmate who had joined the flight from Amsterdam and we chatted about each other's travel experiences and the weather. Suddenly someone shouted, " Eiiii DUMSOR!" I looked up in confusion. The overhead lights in the airport shone brightly in every area illuminating every nook and cranny of the arrival hall. Where's the dumsor? It took me about another ten seconds to realise that the baggage carousel had stopped moving. The remaining luggages were still. There was confusion on almost every face as we all stared at the carousel with full-expectancy that it was going to get moving again in a few minutes. Nothing.
Five minutes later, tired and jet-lagged travellers started agitating and asking each other questions and naturally they couldn't get any satisfactory response from anywhere. We all knew next to nothing. I visited the restroom and came out hopeful to see some change. Still nothing. Ten minutes now. I couldn't help but remark to my friend how interesting it was that for almost ten minutes the overhead PA system hadn't announced any sort of apology for the inconvenience being caused. All we were hearing were airline arrivals and health emergency contact reminders. He chuckled in amusement. Three minutes later before finally the detached female voice read out the apology and stuttered a few times on explaining the 'technical hitch' being experienced by the tired af passengers.
All we could do was wait but for how long? What was going to be the temporal solution? Would a forklift trawler bring up our bags? Was that even possible? Another passenger came to join us and said it was actually a general electrical technical hitch which had affected both the escalators and the baggage carousel. No way!! My mind was blown🤯! A brand new airport?
15 minutes later, we hear a commotion and I inched forward to see what was happening. The baggage attendant was pushing a trolley of four bags which he off-loaded onto the ground. He then proceeded to shout out into the crowd about the inconvenience being caused and offered some sort of apology...all in Twi. In Twi oh! This irked a foreigner so much causing him to shout out if he could say all what he said in English for non-Twi-speaking passengers. That was almost an impossible task for the poor attendant who struggled to put his words together resulting in an eruption of laughter from the concerned passengers.
The attendant then proceeded to call out the names on the baggage tags whilst a few other bags were brought in. Either he couldn't pronounce the names or his voice couldn't carry above the rising disappointed voices of the passengers. " I can't believe this is happening," exclaimed one traveller who like me had travelled 13 hours to get to Accra. A passenger tried to be helpful in reading out the names but alas he rather got riddled by an angry passenger who mistook him for an airport worker.
I went forward and called out some names on the bags trusting in my strong and loud voice which I know carries far. I just couldn't sit by and do nothing with this rising tide of confusion and chaos.
About 6 passengers came forward when I started calling out the names. A voice from the crowd shouted, "Yayyy!!" then I heard someone clapping and turned around to see the carousel moving again. You know how our lights get turned back on after 4 hours of dumsor? Yup.
My friend found his bags and left whilst I waited another ten minutes before spotting mine. My flight touched down a little before 8pm. I walked out of the arrival hall at 10:15pm. What a welcome home this was.
This unfortunate technical hitch may have been an uncommon incident not yet experienced by the facility but it brings into question many things such as emergency maintenance capacity, emergency communication and training of local capacity in such events. The Managing Director of KIA Mr. John Attafuah was reported on MyJoyOnline as saying that there shouldn't be any problems or challengesafter the 36 simulations conducted before the opening of the airport. I think that should have been 100 instead of the purported 36.
Airport staff should be equipped with radio contact even in the arrival hall to communicate with the overhead PA announcement system during such incidents so as to assure passengers of the ongoing resolution to the problem. We waited ten plus whole minutes before hearing anything.
We are all excited about the new terminal and the opportunities it's brought to the airline industry in Ghana. But can authorities ensure that it's international systems and aesthetics are maintained over the years instead of being allowed to descend into the pit of poor maintenance culture we are all too a little familiar with?