Why Nigeria Is Threatening To Ban Turkish Airlines

Filed Under: Turkish

The Nigerian Civili Aviation Authority is threatening to suspend Turkish Airlines’ rights to fly to Nigeria as of December 16, 2019, if changes aren’t made right away.

Turkish Airlines Is Leaving Behind Too Many Bags

The reason for this suspension? Apparently Turkish Airlines is leaving behind way too many bags of passengers on their flights to & from Nigeria, which they describe as “repeated cases of poor passenger treatment.” Apparently some flights have arrived in Nigeria missing more than 85% of checked bags.

The letter is signed by NCAA’s Acting Director General, Captain Abdullahi Sidi, and in part reads as follows:

“Our airport authority had been facing serious crises controlling the passengers at the airport whenever they arrived without their baggage.

This issue had made passengers carry out several mob actions at our airport and it was a great threat to our airport facilities.

In view of all these, and a series of meetings held with the Turkish Airlines’ personnel, which did not yield any solution to this problem, the NCAA is therefore left with no option than to direct Turkish Airlines to suspend its operations into Nigeria until such a time when the airline is ready to operate with the right size of aircraft that can transport all passengers with their baggage at the same time.

If no remedial action is carried out by your airline, this suspension shall be effective from the 16th of December, 2019.”

Interestingly a Turkish Airlines representative in Lagos says the airline hasn’t received any such notice:

“I’m sorry but up till now there is no notification from the authority and everything is going on normally. So there is no notification for any cancellation up till now.”

Turkish Airlines’ Flights To Nigeria

Turkish Airlines operates to the following destinations in Nigeria:

  • Abuja, once daily using a mix of 737s and A330s
  • Lagos, once daily using an A330
  • Port Harcourt, 3x weekly using a 737

Why Is This Problem Specific To Nigeria?

It might seem random that one country is having all of these issues, though Nigeria is a unique aviation market:

  • People flying to & from Nigeria are known for checking lots of bags… like, lots and lots and lots of bags, more than anywhere else
  • They’re also known for buying everything available for sale through duty free, though in this instance that’s unrelated

While exact details aren’t given about which routes specifically are having issues, I would surmise:

  • The A330 flying to Lagos (and sometimes to Abuja) shouldn’t be having any issues, since the plane should easily be able to accommodate all bags, and weight restrictions shouldn’t be an issue given the length of the flight
  • 737s are flown to Port Harcourt (and sometimes to Abuja) with the Port Harcourt routing covering a distance of more than 2,800 miles

The A330 shouldn’t be having issues with bags

That’s approaching the operating limits for the 737-800 under normal circumstances, and I imagine that’s why many of these planes are weight restricted. Turkish Airlines has a generous baggage allowance of two bags of 23kg/50lbs per person even for economy passengers.

The plane has somewhere around 151 seats, so if the flight is full and everyone is checking bags up to the limit, then that’s potentially 15,000+ pounds worth of bags.

That’s potentially about 10% of the 737’s maximum takeoff weight, so I can absolutely see situations where that could have a big impact.

I also wonder if Turkish is letting people pay extra to check more bags. If so, that could be exacerbating the problem.

What Can Turkish Airlines Do?

At this point what can Turkish Airlines do? Assuming this directive sticks, they could go one of three directions:

  • They could lower the baggage allowance significantly, which seems the most practical, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see retribution from the government
  • They could remove the option to pay to check extra bags, which should be a no brainer if they haven’t done so already
  • They could upgrade the planes used on these routes, though presumably that may change the economic viability of these routes
  • They could significantly weight restrict the aircraft and limit how many seats they sell, but this would presumably lead to much higher fares

Bottom Line

We see countries make some ridiculous demands of airlines. For example, Burundi tried to block Kenya Airways from starting service to the country without business class, because the plane they wanted to use was “unbefitting of the status of government officials traveling to Nairobi for connecting flights to other parts of the world.”

But I actually think Nigeria has a point. If an airline is operating a plane that consistently can’t handle the luggage needs of passengers then I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable for the government to step in.

That being said, I’m not sure any of the solutions here would necessarily benefit consumers, as they’d presumably involve a lower baggage allowance, less capacity to these markets, or significantly higher fares.

(Tip of the hat to Live and Let’s Fly)

  1. I’m generally wary of government demands on airlines (“unbefitting the status of government officials”? [expletive deleted]) in this case there are consumers who could clearly benefit, which are the people who paid for a flight and for their bags to be transported that weren’t. It’s something approaching fraud to regularly not deliver bags properly, so this is EXACTLY what a civil authority should be working to solve.

  2. This is pretty much a short-term issue every Christmas, which is being magnified this year due to the continued closure of the Nigerian land borders. Many traders who usually ship their goods by sea via Benin are now having to resort to air instead to meet their Christmas orders.

    I had a single pax check in 102 bags on a flight to Lagos this past Sunday. We are in silly season. Give it 2 weeks and it will be back to normal.

    Also, ABJ is Abidjan and ABV is Abuja. Different cities in different countries. 🙂

  3. Dear Lucky,
    Kindly get a bit more acquainted with our geography hahah ABJ/Abidjan is in Ivory Coast, a totally different country….you should have noticed that from your map given that COO is between ABJ and LOS. Abuja code is ABV and Turkish airline flies non stop from ABV

  4. Sorry, I’m an idiot, didn’t proofread the post close enough. I do know the difference between ABV and ABJ, but just wasn’t paying close attention. My apologies! Post is fixed now.

  5. @Sean M.

    You might be right about having a spike during Xmas. Nevertheless, in normal times they also ship a lot of cargo. I’ve seen it every time I depart CAN in the evening. Out of nowhere a fully loaded minivan just start dumping cargo.

  6. When I saw the headline on Flyertalk I was prepared to roll my eyes at Nigeria being Nigeria, but then read the article and realized that Nigeria was correct here. If you make a commitment and accept payment to ship a certain amount of bags, you have to do it, you can’t leave 85%+ behind!

  7. Can they hitch a trailer or a sleigh to the back of the 737? Will that count towards MTOW?

    I’d love to deep-dive on the economics of this situation.

    Do they send the remaining luggage with another carrier (additional cost).

    Do they charter a cargo plane? Would they earn enough from excess baggage charges to make it worth their while.

    Sounds like there is potential for a cargo route….

  8. Swiss Airlines makes people check any bags over about 4, as cargo. They state it’s not guaranteed that the cargo will ship the same day.

    This would seem to be a sensible approach, since over a reasonable number of bags, it’s clear that what the passenger requires is really some form of cargo and not personally accompanied luggage.

    I suspect cargo costs more, though, and it sure puts the passenger in a mess of filling out forms, bureaucratic delays and other customs requirements. But if notified by the airline upfront when the ticket is sold, that max, say, 4 bags may be checked under any circumstances by one passenger, Swiss is for sure working it this way and I think other airlines already do this too.

  9. I feel there is no need to tar people flying to Nigeria with the same brush as this article seems to do.

    Although your subjective observations regarding the number of luggage Nigerians check-in and how Nigerians like Duty-Free may be valid from what you have seen, I feel its a bit unfair to use such sweeping generalisations on a highly-regarded travel blog as this.

  10. Turkish staff clearly just handed the latest stuffed envelope to the wrong people, if they hand over the right one to the right person in the next couple of days there will be no further problem.

  11. I checked the Lagos route, and Turkish is the only airline with a nonstop. Connecting service at a lower price is offered by Royal Air Maroc, Qatar, EgyptAir, Ethiopian, Emirates, and others. I would look around the Lagos airport for missing luggage, before I looked around Istanbul.

  12. Does anyone why the bags aren’t delivered?
    Turkish deciding to not load some of them is one thing. IST security sorting them out for some reason and they not making it to the plane in time would be another one.

  13. Due to the amount of irregularities sending unaccompanied baggage as cargo from certain countries passengers try to check everything in with them Theft is a big problem When I say including the kitchen sink , I’m not joking. Spare car parts , televisions. It’s not unusual for some to try and check in 10 bags

    The problem is primarily *to* Nigeria and not from.
    This can sometimes result it payload problems as passengers don’t understand operational issues and the fact their aircraft also carries freight

    It costs far more for airlines to reroute delayed baggage They don’t do it intentionally

    Since Nigeria can’t operate a successful reliable international
    airline, travellers rely on other flag carriers

  14. This, and the impound order for Emirates 777s. Nigeria’s civil aviation authority has just upped its seriousness.

  15. not to be stereotypical but the many bags thing is true “People flying to & from Nigeria are known for checking lots of bags… like, lots and lots and lots of bags, more than anywhere else”

    i’m half Nigerian and back when you could get away with it i know a man who took a television as a carry on (not too big of course).

  16. It’s true Nigeria is a peculiar market with lots of luggage carried about by travellers. But I come from Cameroon and it’s a clear politics of Turkish airlines to prioritize paid cargo over free passenger checked in luggage.
    Here, they operate using B737-8/9 equipment on a IST-DLA-YDE or IST-DLA-LBV-IST routing depending on days and most travellers always complain about check in luggage not making it on arrival. Even had an Aunt who travelled to Guangzhou for business and upon return her check in luggage didn’t make it but 4 extra pieces of 32kg she bought extra all made it. Last year it was so bad some Cameroonians had to stage a protest at their head office in Douala because they hadn’t received their luggage in over 2 weeks.
    Most people fly them due to their cheaper fares to many European destinations but they are even a hit with local businesses who see them as an opportunity to travel to two business destinations on one ticket ie to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai, Guangzhou and Mumbai with a free layover in Istanbul at no extra cost.

  17. If they want to bring home the kitchen sink let them pay freight. Flights to all sub Saharan African destinations all have this problem. Not as acute as this though. The problem is the small hold of the 737. Unless TK puts a wide body on the Port Harcourt route and other secondary destinations in Nigeria this problem will continue. Few other carriers fly to these secondary destinations.

  18. I have flown with Turkish Airlines many times, including to Nigeria, and have had no issue with my bags. The only time I did have issue with baggage and Turkish Airlines was in Copenhagen as when we arrived almost 90% of us were connecting and all of our bags had not been loaded onto the flight. Instead of letting us know, they just had us wait for the luggage and then when it did not show up, stand in a long line and queue for hours to fill out forms. It still took another 3 days to get my luggage and another 4 weeks to get compensation

  19. Traders fly to Istanbul, buy goods , check in lots of bags and happily pay , and this is the reason for the problem. It happens from Dubai to Kenya, Uganda and South Africa also , but Emirates seem to be able to control or handle it . Bigger aircraft I suspect .

  20. This reminds me of my experience of Nigeria Airways (WT) at Heathrow back in the ’80s, when around mid-December, the first day of the Christmas rush would mean that 25 or so bags could be left behind one day due to “volumetric” issues, i.e. a lack of space in the hold, to be carried over to the next day’s flight. But then that next day, there could be 50 checked-in bags accepted over the aircraft capacity, in addition to those 25 carried over from the previous day, meaning that 75 were now left behind. Then the next day, about 75 more bags over capacity would be accepted, in addition to the 75 left behind the day before, now leaving 150 behind. This would go on for a week or two until WT finally ran out of space to store all these bags (and presumably facing riots at the other end!) so they would send in a couple of 707 freighters just to clear the backlog of by now, many, many hundreds of bags.
    My understanding at the time of the reason behind passengers preferring to pay extra for excess baggage rather than using cargo (which was at a much lower rate per kilo than XSB), was twofold… Firstly, that accompanied baggage attracted a lower rate of import duty in Nigeria than unaccompanied cargo did, and secondly that passengers had much more confidence in their bags arriving on the same flight as them (Christmas excepted!) than if they were put into the cargo “system”, perhaps never to be seen again!
    It sounds like nothing’s changed in the last 30 years, other than TK via IST having become a major transit point for Nigerian traders routing home from various Chinese cities.

  21. Your point about the Nigerians taking a hell of a lot of luggage is now notorious. I remember watching a documentary about Heathrow a few years ago and the baggage handlers all said that they dread Lagos flights.

  22. As someone who used to work for a well known airline based from London we used to hate doing the Lagos route for this very reason. Nigerian passengers turn up with the kitchen sink and then some! It was ridiculous more often than not the flight was delayed as it would take forever to load the aircraft with the extra baggage! And then the passengers on board would just treat us like crap. That Lagos route is more hassle than it’s worth and never understood why my airline continued to fly there, sorry to say I do not miss those flights one bit! And no surprise that Nigeria currently doesn’t have an international National airline, that speak volumes.

  23. I fly Turkish to PHC every five week or so, there was indeed one incident of us arriving with 90 passengers of which 70 didn’t receive their bags. That was in September. Since then I’ve noticed we are flying the 737-900er and baggage hasn’t been an issue. They also had a promo of allowing passengers to carry 3 bags of 23 kg from PHC when they started the route so this may have contributed to the issue. And also having lived in Nigeria for 16 years there is always an issue of passengers trying to check as many extra bags as possible, and abusing carry on limits. But other airlines which fly to Nigeria keep this in mind. Iberia used to fly an a321 to Lagos from Madrid and generally your luggage always arrived, although cabin space could get a bit dicey. I think alot of the issues actually come from short connection times the flight to Abuja and to PHC both arrive around midnight seem to have some very short connections from Europe, I’ve waited a few times for an extra half hour for passengers with short connections. In any case this is also a typical Nigerian reaction to these kinds of issues, we really hope they keep flying as they provide an excellent service for a great price and a great mileage program.

  24. Just flew TK to Lagos from HK (via IST of course). Was told that TK actually operates a separate cargo flight some days and carries bags on that flight from the passenger flights. Wasn’t sure if true at the time but after reading the above, perhaps makes sense.

    And yes, it’s due primarily to traders that found its cheaper to pay extra baggage charges than to ship goods from Asia to Nigeria.

  25. Pax may pay extra for more luggage. But the Captain has the final say. And too much weight has downed many a plane.

  26. this is a non event of yet another substandard country, that is out of control.

    Nigeria is one of the worse countries in the world, who cares.

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