How did I fall prey to Air Senegal? Here is how it all began.
I had been considering going to Ghana to participate in the Year of The Return activities. As someone who is excited for Africa and African countries making headway or at least seeming like they are moving in the right direction, I felt proud of what Ghana was doing. I had classmates at my university who were not even African and had visited Ghana and had wonderful things to say. I’ve been to Ghana before, but it was back in 2012. So, with all of this news of the Year of the Return activities, there was pent up excited for me to visit Ghana.
Getting A Flight:
Getting flight tickets from Lagos to Ghana was a nightmare. Each time I would check the price would be going up and up. At its peak, I think I had seen prices for about 400-500 USD for just a 3 days weekend trip and less than a 1-hour flight. And then, hotels, another challenge. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I was like “I’d go”. But I’m also a student and wasn’t sure I’d make it eventually. As luck would have it, one of my very good friends at school, a Ghanaian, offered to host me if I came to Ghana. With accommodation sorted, I felt like I should be able to get a flight ticket and make this trip happen.
Deciding on Air Senegal:
As I was scouring for flight ticket, I set alerts and all. One day Air Senegal popped up. I looked at the ticket price and it was about 240USD for a roundtrip. I thought to myself at least this is a little more reasonable than other prices, but this airline – Air Senegal – I’ve never heard about it. Checked online, and only saw articles on their launch. So, I reached out to a travel agent and asked about Air Senegal. He said he hadn’t heard about the airline but was sure it’d be ok. Once I received this confirmation, I felt a little more comfortable and went on to book the ticket and inform my younger sister – who had also been looking for a ticket to Ghana.
Air Senegal Flight to Ghana:
Day of the flight – arrive at the Murtala Muhammed airport. Everything is very disorganized. Amidst the disorganization, I’m asking questions trying to figure out what is going on. No one seems to know what Air Senegal is. We end up queuing next to the Arik booth as instructed and then someone came to speak with us about minor challenges and how we’ll still be flying today. Passengers line up, and there’s still a lot of scrambling. Eventually, they start giving us tickets. I happen to be one of the first to get a ticket; it was handwritten! Never experienced this before. Imagine, every single passenger received a handwritten ticket!!
At the boarding gate, so much turmoil! People scrambling. We changed gates on multiple occasions. After all the back and forth we finally make it to the airstrip. Almost even fell going down the stairs with my luggage. As we get on board, the pilot announces that the flight is being fulfilled by “Passion Air”. The flight was smooth and short!
Side note on Ghana:
Not the point of this post, but Ghana was lit!! Spending time in Ghana was the first time I was ashamed of being Nigerian. I found myself having to explain to my Ghanaian friends what “one chance” is when I would refuse to enter taxis hailed at the roadside. I found myself explaining rampant kidnapping happening across Naij when I’d refused to be perambulating the streets of Accra at nighttime. I’d found myself thinking, “who does this in “Africa”? I found myself waking up in the mornings to sit outside and enjoy the peace; no noisy generators! After many conversations, I realized that the problems I’ve been calling “African challenges” are Nigerian challenges. As a side note, I participated in Afrochella, Afronation, Detty Rave. I was super impressed that Ghana pulled off a whole beach festival; like this thing was a WHOLE vibe! I was just like “wow, what is my country doing?”. Little did I know that my holiday was about to take a left turn, courtesy of Air Senegal.
The day before Return Air Senegal Flight:
I received an e-mail from Kiwi (online booking agency) that my flight was canceled. Out of nowhere! I go ahead to call Kiwi, roaming my line. Kiwi informed me that my flight indeed had been canceled and I needed to contact Air Senegal. I asked Kiwi how I was expected to get home, and again, was informed to contact Air Senegal. So, I found a contact online and called Air Senegal. Again, I was roaming. The convo that transpired I’m still perplexed by it as I’m writing this. The representative I spoke with confirmed the flight had indeed been canceled. So I’m asking this dude all sorts of questions –
What does this mean for me as I’m trying to get home by new year’s?
This man proceeds to say “that is why I’m advising you; talk to your travel agent and buy a new ticket. Find your way home”.
Are you going to pay for my new ticket?
He said no that they can’t do such, that he’s very sorry. And he then mentioned that all their flights to Nigeria have been canceled; Nigerian aviation agency was not allowing them to land.
I’m like if you knew this, why did you bring me to Ghana in the first place? Now I’m stuck here! Will Air Senegal provide funding for a hotel? Transportation? Feeding?
At this point, it made sense why we used Passion Air in the first place!
The Air Senegal rep mentioned I should expect a refund from my travel agent.
After 30 mins of roaming my call to speak with Air Senegal, I transitioned into problem-solving mode. All my events for that morning had to be canceled, as I was figuring out how to get back home. There were no next-day tickets available. Finally found a one-way ticket for 341USD! I didn’t even think twice; I bought the ticket.
So What Next?
Till today as we speak, nothing from Air Senegal. Scoured the internet for info on this awful experience and couldn’t find much and that is why I felt the need to write about this in excruciating detail, so others considering this airline will know that such an occurrence is a possibility.
I tried to send an email to Air Senegal, requesting a token of 1000 USD, which in retrospect is nothing in comparison to the stress and time and activities I went through to get myself back home. My e-mail bounced. Turns out the email address on the Air Senegal website does not receive emails. I sent a tweet, reached out on Instagram, and still today, I have not heard from anybody.
Accountability is critical in the development of any nation. And this is something we’re lacking dearly in Africa. This kind of occurrence cannot go unaccounted for nor is it excusable.
Dear Air Senegal, this is my request – compensate me and my sister accordingly. And put yourselves in other people’s shoes. Because there is no way I will ever recommend or advise anyone to consider Air Senegal.