Dear Egypt Air,
As a to-be fellow passenger of the BOM-CAIRO-ABUJA trip (2.20am Sunday 22nd January, 2017), I was denied entry. The supposed reason was that I had refused to pay the excess baggage fee. Here is a detailed account of what actually happened.
I was relocating for probably a year (or longer) to Nigeria. It is very likely for a passenger relocating to a country to have excess baggage. When I first arrived at the Egypt Air counter at 12.10 am, I noticed that there was a short queue. It took me a maximum of 5 minutes to be assisted by an attendant – a polite 20-something lady. As she started to weigh each bag, I observed that there was no display of information at the counter about extra baggage charges. I had 2 suitcases, a laptop bag and a cabin luggage. I recalled the information on the Egypt Air website: 2 pieces of checked baggage (23 kgs each) and 1 hand luggage (8 kgs) is allowed. In addition to that, I was aware that a laptop bag/purse is allowed. This, I had verified with MakeMyTrip.com and an Ethiopian airline. Both had confirmed that every airline had an unsaid rule about a purse/laptop bag. After weighing my baggages, the lady informed me that the two bigger suitcases were good to go as together they weighed below 46 kgs. However, I had to reduce my cabin luggage because it weighed 11 kgs then.
A counter manager present behind the other attendants, appearing to be in his late fifties was supervising the rest. He addressed the attendant, shouting loudly that no negotiations should be made and that I needed to pay. I was aware of the possibility of reshuffling the weight, but he mentioned nothing about that. I was willing to pay if there was any extra weight, although it seemed like there was none to me.
The lady attendant was very understanding. She advised me to move clothes accordingly to adjust the weight. She kept a track of the time and told me to hurry as I had about 30-45mins to complete my check-in and board the flight. I reshuffled as instructed. On weighing the cabin baggage for the second time, we found out that it was still overweight. The lady was thoughtful enough to enquire if I had a friend waiting outside, and if I’d like to send back any extra luggage with a friend. This she said as she intended to reduce my extra baggage fee. Initially, I was told that I had to pay approximately 6000. I packed and removed clothes hastily as I kept looking at the clock.
For my final check the lady directed me to another man while she left that counter, I assume to attend to something else. She reminded that I had to complete by 1 am. It was 12.45 pm then. I went ahead to this attendant to enquire about the new amount I’d have to pay. He was busy attending to a few other people then. Yet, I made an attempt to let him know that I was waiting for him. He kept informing me, “One minute, ma’am”. I waited, but my fear of the minutes ticking away urged me to keep insisting him to attend to me soon. He responded with the same answer every time. Minutes passed away just persisting this man. It was close to 1 am. I did not know what to do. My turn finally arrived at 1 am. The counter manager came ahead, fussed and seized my e-ticket, signalling his attendants saying that I was unwilling to pay. He instructed his juniors to lift my luggage off the transport belt. I was left appalled.
I went up to him, requested and begged him to hear me out. That I was waiting in line for a long time. That he was mistaken. That I was ready to pay right from the beginning. He heard none of my pleas. The man appeared completely aloof, only addressing his attendants. I was helpless. I urged forward and was compelled to beg and plead to all of them to help me, or at the least speak to me about the procedure to sort it out. My head started spinning and I did not know what to do. Boarding that flight was very important for me. Tears started streaming down my face as I couldn’t believe what I did next. I knelt down and begged them. Never have I felt so helpless and humiliated in my life.
I called my friends who came to just see me off at the airport. All they could do was ask me to request the attendants through calls. They waited helplessly for 6 hours outside the airport, while my mother who was in Meghalaya was at a loss for words. I was scared, angry, and disgusted being in that situation. I tried to fathom how I could be denied to fly for such a trivial matter. I didn’t think it was my fault. All I needed was the attendant to inform me about the extra charges (if any) and follow me through. The gate generally shuts 1 hour prior to the departure of the flight. My flight was at 2:20 am. I still had 1 hour 20 minutes. I have travelled overseas several times, with extra baggage too. No attendant or manager had dismissed me off earlier in this demeaning manner.
My pleas of telling them that no one had attended to me within the time, that I wasn’t even informed about the extra cost, and that I never refused to pay remained unheard. Yes, initially the lady did give me an approximate round off amount. I was not late, had followed through the lady’s instructions throughout, and was willing to cooperate to pay whatever the amount is. The obnoxious behaviour from both the counter official and his juniors led me to disbelieve any other people. I got everyone’s attention but no one wanted to help, the airline officials totally ignored me and walked off to the gates leaving me with my luggage.
I was not allowed entry to my flight. I was not even allowed to leave the departure terminal without an Egypt Air staff escorting me out. They arrived almost an hour later and I was permitted to leave. I am an avid traveller, I have gone through multiple check-ins procedures not only during domestic flights but overseas too. In this episode, I know that it was not a matter of being late, but the requirement of simple customer assistance. How was I to know that I was going to face a rude and crass person who authorized the cancellation of my check-in because I was negotiating for a cost? I don’t think negotiating is wrong either if I rightfully deserve it. I had been left greatly distressed that night Egypt Air. Due to this incident, I spent close to twice the amount for another ticket, was left emotionally drained, wasted my time, and had to disturb friends and family. I had enquired beforehand via email about the baggage details. I had attempted to even call an Egypt Air personnel but there was no response.
I hope that this account of mine raises awareness and helps future travellers. I had to accept my fate unwillingly, but I earnestly hope nobody else has to. If I look at it, this was a form of harassment and discrimination because I see no other reason for such behaviour.