Lufthansa Airlines has stranded a group of high school students on their way to tutor Rwandan girls in an airport in Ethiopia.
Most of the group of 27 students and 5 adults, known as Richard’s Rwanda Impuhwe, had departed Seattle mid-day Monday on a Lufthansa flight that was to take them through Frankfurt, where they were joined by small groups flying out of New York and Washington, DC. The group then flew to Addis Ababa where they were to connect on to Kigali, Rwanda. The last leg didn’t happen.
To say that Lufthansa hasn’t been much help would be an understatement. It didn’t even find the kids a place to stay. After 24 hours in the air and in airports, everyone in the group was exhausted and could have used someone working on their behalf. They weren’t even given blankets, nor has anyone done anything to try to make them more comfortable.
Richard’s Rwanda Impuhwe is the kind of group that we all wish our kids were part of. I can tell you I’m definitely proud that my daughter, Alex, has dedicated so much of herself to the group. When she went to Rwanda last year, she came home a changed young woman and asked my wife her first day back to go with her when this year’s trip happened. My wife and Alex are two of the members of the group trying to sleep on the floor in the Addis Ababa airport as I write this post.
Richard’s Rwanda Impuhwe was formed by kids to help other kids half a world away. The families of the girls in the village of the school RRI supports all lost family members during the genocide. Despite all they have endured, though, they are filled with optimism and inspiration. Our kids go over to teach the Rwandan girls but come home feeling that they were the one who learned the most important lessons.
Too bad Lufthansa is so slow to help these kids.
When Lufthansa checked the group in for the first leg of its journey, the ticket agents told them that their baggage would be checked all the way through to Kigali, but that they would have to get boarding passes for the Addis Ababa-Kigali leg at the airport in Addis Ababa. When the group arrived in Addis Ababa, though, the ticket agent for Lufthansa’s partner, Ethiopian Airlines, said there was no record of the travelers in their system. (All the travelers, by the way, had been booked together through the same travel agency directly with Lufthansa.) After some time, the airport ticket agent magically found 7 of the kids in the system. They put those 7 along with one of the adult chaperone on the scheduled 10:45 p.m. flight to Kigali.
Meanwhile, the remaining kids and chaperones were told that maybe they could get on the next flight in 12 hours. Maybe. Now, one would expect a world-class airline would put the group up in a hotel while finding a way to get them on the next flight. Didn’t happen. The remaining 21 kids and 4 adults were stuck in the airport. As I write this post, they still are.
The 7 kids who made the flight to Kigali have now landed. But, adding insult to injury, when they went to claim their personal baggage, none of it had made the flight with them! There were 15 pieces of luggage belonging to the group, just not theirs. And no one knows, at this point, where all the rest of the checked baggage might be.
Lufthansa certainly could do a better job than this. Someone in Germany should intervene on behalf of the kids they’ve stranded on this goodwill trip.