I came down to see him and explained that I wasn’t fully packed, and he told me it was no problem, he’d be at the front when I was ready. So I hurried through my packing routine, but double checked to make sure I didn’t leave anything, and was back down at 8 am.
It often happens that this hotel has a problem running my credit card. It went through fine when I arrived, but now it wouldn’t. So I called the card company, and they could see the charge tried to come through, but there is no block on the card, it must be a problem with the hotel’s equipment. So she tried it again, and it went right on through. Now I’m glad Osas was early, because we were just about right on time leaving!
Check in at the airport was the usual hamster-on-a-wheel affair, but it went relatively smoothly. I went on through security and spent a little over an hour in the lounge waiting for time to board. The lounge costs 3,000 naira ($4.10) but it is air conditioned, and you get coffee, so I figure its worth it.
Smooth flight back to Lagos, and my bag came out fairly soon. I called an Uber to take me over to the international airport, which isn’t very far away, but it isn’t a trip one wants to make on foot while pulling your suitcase.
I chose the morning flight out of Benin, because experience has shown me that flights are canceled or greatly delayed with amazing regularity. I wanted to have enough time to find another flight, or figure out some other way to get to Lagos should there be a problem with my flight.
But since everything was on time, that means I’m at the airport about 5 hours before anyone shows up at the Delta counter so I could check in. There is a small lounge right beside the Delta counter, so for the Nigerian equivalent of $8.20 I went into the lounge. It had a/c and wifi, and I could get two drinks. So with another coffee I pulled out my tablet and started to get some work done. I’m sure there is slower wifi somewhere, but I almost think it would have to be dial-up… However, with patience I was able to download the correspondence I needed to respond to, and was slowly able to get my messages back out. No need getting frustrated, I have plenty of time!
Eventually I saw people beginning to line up by the counter, and knew it was time for me to get in the queue. Since I’m Sky Priority status, they directed me from the already very long Economy Class line over to a much shorter one. I was the 3rd person in line. But first in line was a lady with 6 bags to check (I surreptitiously grabbed a picture of their cart) and that didn’t include 5 more carry-on bags! I’m not certain I even have that many clothes!!
They opened the line for us to start going through, but it was slow. We had to have yet another passport check, and then fill out a form, and sign. Then go over to a table where employees were opening and going through every single suitcase. Finally I got to the counter to get my boarding pass, and I was through. I was the 3rd one through, and it took a full 20 minutes. As I walked out I looked over the line of passengers waiting, and several mountains of luggage, and realized some of these folks were going to be in line until the flight was ready to leave in another 4 or so hours…
My frequent flyer status normally will let me into the Delta lounges, but this time the lady with a little bit of disdain told me my status wasn’t high enough for entrance here, but I could pay to get in. Naw, not going to do that.
So, I went to a small restaurant Cody Kitts had introduced me to several years ago. They make a pretty decent hamburger, so I went in and for a great deal less than the entrance fee at the Delta lounge got a big burger, fries and a drink. And was able to sit in the a/c until time to head down to my gate.
At the gate there was another set of security procedures we all had to go through. As with many things here, the procedures were as efficient and orderly as traffic in Lagos. And just about as clogged up as the traffic. I arrived at the gate early, and was able to go through relatively quickly. But as the departure lounge filled, and the line to get in lengthened, I could see the chaos increasing and patience decreasing. I’m just glad I’m not back in that line.
When it was time to start boarding, they took the wheelchair people out into the loading gate and stopped them. That’s where everyone stood for a full hour. When someone asked what was happening, we were told the a/c on the plane wasn’t operating very well, and it was too hot to load people in. 20 minutes after we were supposed to take off, the boarding process started.
I was on near the first, so had no trouble getting my seat and my backpack in the storage bin overhead. But in short order it became a problem for others. The plane was absolutely full, and wen perhaps 2/3 of the people were on, they started announcing that all the overhead space was full in the back. Then that all the overhead space on the entire plane was full. And still people came in with two or three carryon bags!
So everyone with bags they couldn’t fit in started back against the flow of traffic to get their bags up to the front (where I assume they were put in the hold below). Finally done, everyone was asked to sit down so we could push back and get going.
I’ve never seen this happen before, but I felt the plane start to be pushed back from the gate when the pilot slammed on the brakes and we stopped instantly. They then got on the intercom and said the pilot will not resume pushback until everyone gets into his or her seat. And the announcement had to be repeated a couple of times before some people would pay attention and sit down! It felt a bit like we had a half a planeload of children who can’t listen to instructions…
Eventually we finished our push back, taxied out and got right into the air for a 12+ hour flight direct to Atlanta.
I managed to sleep a good bit of the way, and the pilot made up some time as well, landing about 35 minutes late. That was going to make my connection to NW Arkansas very tight!
But I was processed through faster than I’ve ever seen before! I had to pass through Customs and Immigration, which literally took moments. Then collect my checked bag, which was one of the first off. Then drop off my bag and go back through security, which took a couple of minutes. I got on the train to get to the right terminal, and walked down to my gate no more than 20 or 25 minutes after we got off the plane! I may never go through this quickly again, but it sure was nice today!
A short flight to Arkansas, and I walked down to see my smiling bride waiting for me at baggage claim. So good to be home again!
Thank you for all who prayed for the safety and success of the trip. I really believe God has answered those prayers.
Until next time…