A few of the more than 140 Africa-bound passengers who were stranded at Brussels International Airport on Christmas day were able to board flights on Thursday for their final destinations.
After staying in the airport basement for several hours, the passengers say they were finally given hotel accommodations on Thursday near the airport.
They missed their connecting flights in Brussels after their United Airlines flight was delayed for several hours at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.
But a new problem has developed, according passenger Musa Jallo from Madison, Wisconsin who was going to Banjul, Gambia.
He says his luggage and those of other passengers have been damaged and some valuable personal effects missing.
Jallo said he and the other passengers have filed claim reports with the authorities, although he says they do not know whether their luggage were damaged in Chicago or in Brussels.
“What happened is they stole a lot of my jeans and some jewelry. I’m not sure where because we had a delay in Chicago. And they were lying to us there because they told that they were mining the baggage for the two hours that we stayed at the airport, and I’m not sure if the stuff were stolen there or here [Brussels],” he said.
Jallo said some of his electronics, jeans, and jewelry are missing. He said he filed a claim after discovering his luggage at the lost and found section of the airport.
“Actually, I filed a claim because my baggages were at the lost and found. I filed a claim and they said they are going to bring it to the attention of United Airlines,” Jallo said.
He said another passenger, who said he was going to Liberia for a wedding also had some personal effects missing from his luggage.
“There is a guy whose stuff is missing, but he’s not here right now. He’s from Liberia, I think. They stole his wedding dress and his wedding shoes and stuff like that. That’s what he said. He filed a claim too,” Jallo said.
Daniel Dogba, a Liberian who lives in Fort Worth, Texas, and has been acting as spokesman for the stranded passengers says he met Thursday for the first time with Cathy Marlier, United Airlines representative in Brussels.
Dogba said Ms. Marlier told him she and her team were fully aware of the stranded passengers’ situation.
“According to her, she and her team saw this coming but there was no way to prevent it because ‘were already packaged onboard United Flight 972 from Chicago. And that they fought and fought with SN Brussels here to hold on for about 30-45 minutes to be able to receive us so we can get transited, but the SN Brussels authorities said because it is a usual pattern with United, they were not going to wait for the flight,” Dogba said.
He said the stranded passengers were finally given accommodations at a Sheraton Hotel near the Brussels airport.
Dogba said between 8 and 10 of the 142 stranded passengers were able to fly out of Brussels on Thursday for their final destinations.
“The rest of us don’t have anything definitive. All we have been told is that we are on a waiting list. We are just hoping and praying that we can get out of here and go to our respective destinations,” Dogba said.
Butty interview with Dogba and Jallo