This Thursday's post is a throwback, in which I review a round-trip plane trip from earlier this year. Does it sound thrilling? If not, then allow me to introduce you to the airline.
Air Peace is a Nigerian Airline, whose operations are currently constrained to West Africa, but whose ambitions are much larger than that. As of recent, destinations like Dubai and Beirut have been added to their website, which indicates some serious expansion beyond being a West African airline. Moreover, they have publically discussed planning to fly to even more far flung destinations, like London and Houston.
Air Peace does use older planes, and yes, they have been criticized for having poor safety standards amid a flurry of minor incidents in 2019.
Allen Onyema, the CEO, replied in a lengthy phone intevriew with a YouTuber that Air Peace doesn't have a problem because our pilots don't want to die.
Talk about reassurance!
Lastly, and perhaps most topically, Onyema has recently been accused of money llaundering by the U.S. government. Allegedly, he moved "more than $20 million from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes" by pretending to buy things through various shell organizations.
Though I cannot speak of the allegations one way or another, I can tell a search for Mr. Onyema on twitter will retrieve many passionate responses, mostly arguing for the CEO's innocence with various explanations of why he has been framed. Onyema plans to vigorously defend himself against the accusations.
So, with that out of the way, maybe you're marginally more interested in my flight experience with this airline. Maybe?
I booked my flight with Air Peace long before those safety concerns and response came to light, and flew with them months before the money laundering allegations. I chose Air Peace for the sole reason that it was the most affordable ticket between Accra, Ghana and Monrovia, Liberia. Traveling between those two overland would have necessitated a visa to the Ivory Coast, and a lengthy, possibly impassable journey in the rainy season. The Air Peace ticket for a round trip was the most affordable option, so I booked it.
I don't have anything in particular to say about the flight. The plane was old, and my seat on the return flight had the top cover ripped off of my arm rest. And sure, the seat was cramped and the leg room was non-existant. But, what do you expect from an airplane?
Among my expectations for Air Peace was that they'd feed me, as indicated by at least one online reviewer. I was hopeful for Jollof Rice, but alas, instead by choices were "Omelete or Egg", paired with a salad of chickpeas, tomatoes and cucumbers, a piece of chocolate cake with icing on the bottom, a roll, and a cup of coffee.
My other main expectation was that Air Peace would be somewhat prompt. I decided to gamble and book a flight that would get into Accra at around noon, and another flight on a separate scheduled to leave Accra around seven PM. In all instances, all of my flights were late, but not ridiculously so.
However, I do have one complaint.
I would have liked my checked baggage to have remained intact.
When I retrieved my baggage from the carosel, a gash had been ripped in the top of my roller suitcase, near where one of the seams was. As the baggage assistants confirmed that the bag was mine and that I had the requisite reciept, they assured me that it was "definitely their fault," and that I should "go to the baggage office."
Monrovia International Airport is not among the nicest airports I have been in, but it is hard to fault it for that. The airport was subject to heavy fighting during the Liberian Civil War, and though a new terminal is being constructed, it is still being constructed far away from the city center and in a flood plain. The new buildings are pretty okay.
The baggage office was in one of the older buildings, so I exited the airport, walked down a way, and went in with my suitcase. I met a man who assured me that this was definitely Air Peace's fault. He gave another man a dressing down (despite appearing to be that man's subordinate), and ranted about the carelessness of the airport staff in charge of handling baggage. He acted as though he knew exactly what the issue was which ripped a hole in the top of my suitcase.
When the conversation turned to compensation, however, he was a bit more baffled. You see, no one knew who was in charge of such things. In the baggage office. And, he had to go leave to supervise some baggage handlers. So, my instruction was to wait.
To wait while I had a driver waiting for me, who I did not want to keep waiting... Well, the circumstances were outside of my control.
Incidentally, while I was waiting, an entire family with a whole bunch of suitcases had shown up. They had just been visiting Ghana, and were disturbed to find that some Irish Cream and perfume were missing from their bags. It wasn't entirely clear to me whether this was due to theft, or violations of Liberian customs law. But, this meant that whenever a person in charge came up, I would have to compete for speaking time with some considerably more argumentative victims impatient for their own retribution.
So, I waited for a bit over an hour and I got my turn into the conversation.
I asked if it was possible to recieve money or a new suitcase.
The answer was no, because Air Peace couldn't afford those things. (Yet, they can afford to operate multiple international air routes many times a week?)
They told me that I could leave my suitcase with them and take the contents with me, and that they would have someone fix it.
I think this would be a non-starter for most people. The Monrovia International Airport is over an hour's drive from Monrovia proper, and hiring a driver for that distance isn't cheap. (In part, because the driver could end up spending a lot of time waiting, like mine was.)
However, I was going through all of this hassle for a relatively short visit to Liberia. I asked if they could have it ready for me by my next flight on Tuesday, so I could pick it up that morning. I got a phone number and I left my bag there, half expecting to never see it again.
When I arrived in advance of my Tuesday flight, it was stiched shut, and the sewing has held ever since.
Of course, one of the wheels started falling apart a couple of weeks ago.
But you know...
The road to success is paved with small victories.