Egypt Air was the fastest route to get from Ghana to Singapore, at that particular time. My family traveled on it so many times; we knew the stewards and stewardesses on a first name basis. The trip had been uneventful from Singapore to Cairo. Now we were boarded and ready to head from Cairo to Accra. Everything was going smoothly. In fact, there was one point in the flight that my husband and I looked at each other and wondered if we weren’t dreaming. There had been no major catastrophes. The kids were behaving. Everything was just great. That was right before we landed in Kano, Nigeria.
In order to get to Ghana, the plane needed to land in Kano, Nigeria. After Kano, it flew on to Lagos and then to Accra. This was not a complicated process, but on this day it would prove to be quite the production. Normally, we would wait forty minutes before the plane took off. This time we waited for an hour and a half, but there was no announcement made signaling our departure. The children became fidgety and the other passengers began to pace up and down the aisle asking each other what was going on. Finally, someone decided to enlighten us on the situation.
“We are sorry to inform you that a dust storm has made it impossible to land at the Lagos Airport. All passengers who were going to Lagos should deplane now and a bus will take you to the terminal.”
Well, that seemed like an easy enough request. We settled back in our seats thinking that now all those passengers should get off the plane so we could get on our way. No sooner had we settled back in our seats when a mild uproar started. One large Nigerian gentleman took it upon himself to become the ringleader.
“We will not get off this aeroplane! Of course they will leave us here. We must have an assurance that they will take us to Lagos.”
My husband and I groaned. We should have guessed that our flight was not going to be uneventful. Hadn’t experience long since taught us that? We settled back into our seats with our in-flight magazine which by this point we had practically memorized. Another passenger leaned forward and shouted, “Why don’t you get off so that we can go to Accra.” Apparently the ringleader didn’t think this was a good idea and blustered forth with retaliation. At that point the P.A. system blurted out a very interesting announcement, “If you do not disembark from the aircraft immediately the Nigerian army will come and forcibly remove you from the aircraft.”
All pandemonium broke loose. Several women threw themselves in the aisle wailing. Some children burst out crying because of the loud screaming. Mr. Ringleader shouted for everyone to keep quiet. “They are lying!” he stated. He was not going to be deterred from getting the airline to guarantee transport to Lagos. That was about the time we heard an announcement filtering up from outside the opened door of the airplane.
“This is the Nigerian Army, we have the aeroplane surrounded. If you do not surrender we will be forced to overtake the aircraft.”
I peeked out the window and sure enough there were soldiers surrounding the aircraft. Inside the cabin a few more ladies were fainting. One woman ran down the aisle screaming, “They are serious, they will shoot us!” The ringleader crumbled. He immediately started yelling, “We are surrendering,” as he made a wild dash for the door. Within a few moments the cabin was emptied of the Lagos passengers.
The rest of our flight to Accra went smoothly. Once at the Kotoka Airport in Accra, our friends greeted us and asked, “How was your flight?”
“Oh, it was just fine,” was our response. After all, we made it to our destination, didn’t we?
*This is something I was asked to write for "Among Worlds" Magazine a few years ago.