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My awful experience at Kotoka International Airport in Ghana

Liberian journalist recounts ordeal at the hands of Ghanaian Ethiopian Airlianes staff at Kotoka International Airport

Kotoka International Airport
Kotoka International Airport, Accra

As one of the jurors of UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Award Committee, I was flying to Chile, to attend the award ceremony. I was on my way to join my colleagues— other jurors— who were also gathering in that South American nation for the World Press Freedom Day ceremony. We were to name and present the winner of this year's Press Freedom Award. The ceremony had been earmarked for May 2nd & 3rd, 2024, in Santiago.

My two-day journey — April 29th – 30th 2024— began from the Roberts International Airport in on Asky flight at 7:30 a.m. I arrived two hours later by 9:30 a.m. at the in , Ghana.

I laid over in Accra for almost 10 hours. My connecting flight was scheduled for 8:30 p.m. It was flight (ET 920). It was to take me to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, before getting on another connecting flight. But I nearly became deprived of boarding that flight as the Ghanaian Ethiopia Airlines flight agents on duty awfully treated me, a fellow West African, who had all my traveling papers intact and correct. 

Check-in was from 6-8:00 p.m. I arrived at the check-in counter an hour before check-in and presented the requisite paper. But the fellow at the desk asked that I gave him other documents, including my passport, the Chilean Visa, Letter of Invitation, and working ID card. According to him, he needed to scan and forward them to Addis for confirmation because I was going beyond , where ET Airlines does not fly to.

I was surprised! The agent was behaving like an extended arm of the Chilean Government's immigration personnel who tried to verify and make sure that I had the correct traveling documents before entering his country. And, his act of showmanship seems to me like he was the one who had paid my air fare.

At Kotoka International Airport's Terminal one, where ET Airlines has its office, was where I was sent and I presented all my documents there. I was told to return to Terminal Three and wait for a call to check-in, but that call never came in until the boarding time had ended and gate was closed. But before the end of time, I had frantically tried more than once to get the other ET Airlines agents at the boarding desks that I had been sent there from their head office at Terminal One to await a confirmation call, so they should please inquire through their communication channel but they ignored me and wouldn't listen. In fact, they began pushing me and said that I should move backward as if I had done something wrong. 

A female ticket agent at the main counter even shouted instructions to an airline officer to prevent me from getting closer: “Push that lady back and don't allow her cross that line,” she ordered. Like she had ordered, it was obeyed and executed. I was pushed further back and treated like a common criminal.

I tried explaining and asking them to call their head at the Airlines office, who had scanned my documents regarding my confirmation, but they refused and said, because the fellow had not called, meant I was not confirmed for traveling.

Missing that flight would have prevented me for making it in time for the program and performing my international duty. Realizing that, I was completely out of ideas and didn't think on negotiating with them again. I was being unjustly denied from boarding the flight, a situation that I was not responsible for as all my papers were up to date.

So, out of nowhere and spontaneously, I created an unforgettable scene at the Airport. I placed both hands on my head, started wailing and shouting as if I had just received the news of my mother's death. My disturbance caught the attention of many at the Airport. Some became concerned why a lady was crying at the check-in desk. A lady from among the onlookers said in a low tone: “This is what they do at this airport in order to extort money from passengers, who they claim are late for check-in.”

My tantrum became apparently embarrassing for ET Airlines agents that an older lady from among them began asking me to calm down. I told her the calm down period was over, because when I was asking them politely, they all ignored and pushed me behind.

As this drama was unfolding, a gentleman passenger, who had come to the counter to seek information regarding his own flight, told them that if someone records me crying at the airport and post the video on , it will create a negative image for Kotoka International Airport. It was when the ticket agent, who few minutes ago had ordered the security to push me away, called me to her desk and asked me to hand her my passport. She then issued me the boarding pass to check-in, through the very gate that had been announced closed.

Surprisingly, while in the terminal, two agents from the airlines again approached me to say they had not gotten any confirmation from their boss, one Mr. Asare (sp). I told them it was their problem to deal with because I was not getting out of the terminal unless a yellow machine was brought in to pull me outside.

A few minutes later, the very same female agent, who had ignored me earlier when I appealed to her and others to call their boss about my confirmation, took her phone and called her boss. They spoke their local Ghanaian language and she came and told me that I had been confirmed to board the flight.

Had I not thrown tantrum, those ET Airlines Ghanaian agents would never have allowed me to board the flight and I would have missed my international duty to journalists all around the world, and particularly the journalist who won the coveted prize. 

As I flew from Accra, I began to think that the situation was a bad luck and I began to worry that there was probably another ugly situation ahead of me, maybe in Chile. But when I landed at the airport in Santiago, the Chilean Immigration welcomed me with opened arms as they were already expecting me.

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