Checking in with Emirates in Lagos

Some tips in case someone googles this topic…

If you’re flying to Dubai on Emirates from Lagos, here are a few tips from the point of view of an English business traveller.

The whole experience isn’t utterly awful, although I would absolutely hate to have to do this without having a Silver or Gold card and priority checkin. It could also be a lot better, something Emirates themselves should really work on, although it’s not all their fault.

Firstly, if there is any way you can beg, borrow or steal a seat in business class, do it.

Turn up early. Better to spend two hours in the airport than be stuck in a queue. Go to the loo before you leave your hotel too, just like your mum would make you. I haven’t experienced the facilities on the check in side of things and I never want to have to.

When your car pulls up, people will walk up and try to help you with your bags in return for a tip. It’s a good idea to make sure your driver doesn’t open the boot until you’re standing next to it. If he opens it before you’ve both got out, you may find yourself wrestling your bag out of the hands of whoever grabs it first. If someone is trying to be helpful and you really don’t want them to be, being firm and clear to them will usually mean they’ll smile and walk away. They’re persistent but not aggressive.

Emirates’ check-in desk is on the right side of the terminal (assuming you are facing the building.)

There will probably be a large confusing crowd of people in front of you, at which point your heart will sink. Once again, random people may come up to you to help, asking you who you are flying with. The last time this happened to me I really had no idea what to do next, such was the melee in front of me, so I told the guy I was with Emirates, but I had no money to give him a tip if he helped me. ‘Money isn’t every tin’ my brotha’, he announced, guiding me to someone who let me through to walk straight up to the Skywards Gold checkin lady – the whole process from getting out of the car to having my boarding pass in my hand took ten minutes. Bonus.

The huge queue that I had managed to avoid looks like a queue to get to the check in desks, but it’s actually a queue for people with luggage to have their bags rifled through by curious security officials before they can go to the check in desks. So, if you have have hand luggage only, you can skip this part. I urge you to try to do this if you value your sanity.

What happens if you say you have carry on only, but then actually check your bag in once you’ve skipped the queue and made it to one of the nice ladies who print off your boarding pass? I honestly don’t know and I wouldn’t want to find out.

Once you have your boarding pass, it’s all rather simple. You go past one or two document checks, then passport control, then security.

It’s worth taking a forthright attitude to maintaining the Sanctity of the Queue during this process. People will happily walk in front of you, push you aside, etc.

The last but one time I went through, a young guy in uniform who was checking my documents started staring at me and repeating ‘gimme 20 Naira’. I wasn’t sure if I should bribe him or not, but as I had plenty of time I thought I’d just stand there and see what happened. After he’d said ‘gimme 20 Naira’ for the sixth time, his older colleague, who was sitting next to him, gave him a firm slap and told me to walk through.

Passport control has always been painless. The guys here find my surname interesting. I then tell them that I was recently in Lebanon and was actually on the road to Damascus. This always causes great hilarity.

‘I didn’t see a blinding white light though!’

‘That is because you are a good man, Mr Christopher, whereas Saul of Tarsas, eeeeeeh, he was a bad man before, but then he was saved, praise Jesus.’

Why thank you.

Take care during the x-ray process, as the guys don’t pay attention to whether people’s belongings are getting log jammed on the other side, so they just leave the conveyor belt running. The tray carrying my laptop nearly fell on the floor, which would have annoyed me intensely. My jacket did fall off, but a nice security lady picked it up for me, apologised to me and told off the x-ray operator.

You’re through!

The terminal is ok. There are a few duty free shops and it never seems that busy. The lack of people never makes sense to me – where do all the people crowding the check in area go?

There’s no dedicated Emirates lounge – EK have an arrangement with a place towards the end of the terminal, in the direction of the gates. You have to walk up a winding staircase to get to it, at which point you might regret not having checked your bags in. It’s easy enough, but do pay attention as the carpet is worn and a bit slippery. Each time I have been here one of the airport workers has always offered to carry my bags for me. I have to admit I agreed to be helped on this last trip as I was knackered after seven days in Lagos and still a bit dazed from the crazy hour long drive from the hotel to the airport.

I don’t like the Emirates lounge. It’s very new but the seats are uncomfy and their fake leather smells awful. The food selection is terrible and there are no sugar free soft drinks. The AC is great though and the toilets are very new and clean. I couldn’t stand the smell on my last visit, so I went into the lounge next door – the ladies there seemed to take pity on me when I told them that the other lounge smelt bad. Both lounges have free wifi that works well.

If you’re not lucky enough to have lounge access, there are various eateries around that look safe. There is paid for wifi as well. I don’t think there’s a smoking area, although one of the cafes advertises that you can smoke in there.

The EK gate is a fair walk away, so leave enough time, probably ten minutes, to get there. Don’t fall down the stairs if you are coming down from the lounge. Boarding tends to start an hour to forty five minutes before take off, as the whole process resembles herding cats.

If you are business or first class, or Skywards Gold or Silver, you can wait in a separate area directly next to the walkway that leads to the plane. The 100 plus people in economy have to wait outside on the 50 seats. This process makes boarding much easier – at most airports outside of Dubai, Emirates staff just don’t bother to try to board people in any order any more. As soon as the announcement is made for first, business, etc, to board, everyone tends to leap up and form a disorderly queue (Beirut) or start pushing and shoving to get on the plane (Lagos).

During my last trip, when boarding was announced, the lady managing the boarding process literally had to wedge the door to our little area shut, using a metal post that was lying around. The people in economy were pushing the door, desperate to get in, as if the plane were going to leave without them.

If I were in economy, I would wait right next to the door and use my bag and a stern stare to make sure people didn’t push me too much, ready to get on as soon as the door was opened. My main motivation for this would be to get space for my carry on luggage, something that is always at a premium when travelling with Nigerians, who all seem to manage to get on the plane with ten pieces of hand luggage each. My wheelie suitcase is quite a good tool to help maintain my personal space, although I have had people actually try to walk on it in order to push ahead, albeit on other routes. (It’s always Chinese people who seem to walk on my bag. Why?)

If you have no carry on, I would recommend standing aside and watching the whole process unfurl with a look of bemusement on your face.

During my last trip, as I walked off to get on the plane, with plenty of time to get space for my hand luggage and sink into my business class seat, I could see an English looking bloke about my age, caught up in the stream of people around him, looking very forlorn. Poor chap.*

So, Lagos airport is an experience, but it’s not the end of the world and it’s not the worst I have seen. (That was Addis Ababa a few years ago, which is worth another post entirely. Suffice it to say that if you’re late for the flight to Khartoum, feel free to walk up to the front of the queue with your three wives, ten children and your servants.)

* The experience isn’t fun for anyone, but it is ‘normal’ at least for most of the Nigerian passengers. I felt sorry of this English traveller as he was a total fish out of water.

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6 Responses to “Checking in with Emirates in Lagos”

  1. Francis Scott Says:

    Excellent advice. I travel on the Dubai to Lagos route often and no longer get surprised by the shambles that represents arrival & departure at Lagos airport.

    A few tips I can add:
    – Do fly Business or First or have an Emirates Gold card. This will enable you to avoid the rammed Emirates Economy check-in desk area

    – For short business trips only take hand luggage.

    – The Lagos cocktail club Casa has a very good cigar longe in Departures (airside)

    – Always have a pen ready for use. There are landing & departure forms.

    – If anyone offers to help you with your luggage or the forms they will expect a tip.

    – Don’t expect the moving walkways, AC, or even the lighting to work.

    – Emirates do not have their Skywards computer at Lagos. Hence bagging a free upgrade is nigh on impossible when flying out of Lagos. The only time I ever bagged a free upgrade at Lagos was when the entire check-in system crashed and 4 passengers ended up the same hand written seat number on their departure card as me…. A fun experience that was!

  2. Art Peck Says:

    Weren’t you the one unhappy with the process here in the Colonies? Sounds like we have a much better grip on things.

    • christophersaul Says:

      To be honest, Art, I’d prefer to exit through Lagos over, say, taking that internal flight from Orlando to Las Vegas again.

      It’s chaotic in Lagos, but you can get through. The problem in the US is the time it takes, the lack of staff employed and the need for what is probably quite ineffective security.

      To be fair, at least the experience is fairly consistent across the US, whereas in African you are never quite sure what might happen!

  3. Yori Says:

    I just love this post and I have to tell you this is typical of any flight with more that 10 Nigerians whether they are boarding from Nairobi, Dubai or Lagos..herd mentality and oh yes the hand luggage part, they somehow manage to get stuff the size of a mini fridge on board as hand luggage. I worked at Dubai airport and watching Nigerians at check-in was a movie scene! Something about countries with populations exceeding 80m – China, Nigeria, India, Egypt…must scramble for everything I guess.

  4. The Bare Foot Gap Yah'rer Says:

    oh LOL what an experience – it sounds hilarious! Oh I love the diverse little planet we inhabit full of such characters. Definitely a story to retell!

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