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26.04.2004 General News

Ghanair: The excess luggage saga

By Chronicle

A passenger on board the Ghana Airways 1 March 2004 Flight GH0170, from Accra to Baltimore, which was reported to have $100,000 excess baggage cash unaccounted for, confirmed “The Chronicle” newspaper story.

The passenger, who pleaded for anonymity, said Ghanair had to delay for four hours in Banjul, the Gambian capital, to offload and reload all the baggage before it could take off.

The passenger, who was in the Business Class, said the overloading of the plane was no secret to everyone on board, as the passengers were informed that their delay in Banjul was as a result of the baggage “flying all over the compartment” and that they were repacking them.

The Chronicle in its March 15, lead story captioned “Ghanair's Baltimore flight Scandal…All airport staff face arrest,” reported how the manifest, which provided information on the list of passengers with the total baggage weight on board the flight, indicated that the weight of checked-in baggage was 6.76 tonnes.

This, the paper reported, was in contrast to the load sheet, which indicated that the weight of checked-in baggage of all persons on the aircraft that day was 16 tonnes, revealing that 9.3 tonnes of baggage was unaccounted for. A charge per kilogram is put at $12.00, given that the total loss of revenue on the day in question was about $100.000.

Explaining further, our source said it all started after they had checked in the previous day. “After the check-in we went up to the departure hall where there was a long queue. They had some passengers coming from Monrovia, who were also to join the flight to Washington.

However, when they got in, instead of staying in the transit lounge they went out to town and before they came their seats on board had been sold out, the source explained. He said this generated a little commotion, which was later settled.

According to the passenger, the first irregularity witnessed at the terminal was to see a few people who had economy class tickets pay $100.00 and had them upgraded to Business Class. As to whose pocket that money went to nobody knows. “And out of the Business Class passengers, there were about five members of Ghanair staff,” our source continued.

The passenger said after an hour and half delay, just before the flight could take off, two three year-old unaccompanied Liberian children were found in the Business Class.

As to how the children were deposited in the Business Class, the passenger said, was a mystery. This, the insider said, created a lot of controversy as to whether they should be taken on or disembarked. “Fortunately there was a Liberian on board who had something to do with the UN refugee agency, he even offered them the number to the Liberian Embassy in Accra so that they could get in touch with the Ambassador,” the passenger said.

However, according to the insider, it was then dawn so the children were finally put down with the knowledge that they would have to contact the Liberian Embassy the next day. The insider said when Ghanair got to the Banjul airport passengers were again taken aboard. But the plane had to be delayed for four hours for the baggage to be removed, taken to the terminal and repackaged.

This again generated a little scene in the aircraft but “when we were taking off after the delay I, sitting at seat number one, did not think the plane would be moving because you could see that the plane was actually overloaded,” the insider said.

The passenger said when Ghanair finally landed at Baltimore, one Ghanaian passenger was arrested for possessing fake traveling documents. Meanwhile the Ministry of Roads and Transport is yet to come out with its investigation into the matter.

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