Friday, 30 May 2014

Missing a flight

Another vulnerable situation I found myself in was almost a year later when I missed my charter flight off of Zanzibar island. I had to get a connecting flight in Dar es Salaam up to Nairobi and from memory, there wasn't much time in between the two flights. What was even more annoying was the plane was still on the tarmac when I arrived and after both myself and my guide talking (begging) with the airport staff in their little shack, and me indicating I could just run across and hop on (surely), it was no good and the plane left without me. The male airport staff were laughing at me when they asked for a further 50 dollars to secure my place on the next flight off the island, so I paid up (lucky I had enough cash, these were the days when I didn't carry a credit card) and then it was an excruciating wait of two to three hours in the tiny, hot, airless departure lounge where I wondered if I really was on the next flight out. I sat and as each minute passed, I tried to work out if I was still going to make my connection in Dar with time to spare. My guide had long gone, I think he'd left for another tour even before I'd paid for a new ticket, so I watched the lounge fill up hoping I would be flying out with these people.

In hindsight, I can see that everything was going to be ok, but at the time I was new to travelling on my own and I didn't have a clue what was going on and didn't like the idea of "winging it" as much as I do now (because now I see that's actually the fun part of travel... not knowing how things are going to turn out). And even when I eventually got to Dar, I was still clueless and dazed as to where I should be going within the airport. In fact, as I walked onto my next plane, I asked the flight attendant whether this was the correct flight just to be sure. Luckily it was, but by then I was so out of sync, I didn't trust myself to get anything right!

What I learned from this experience is first and foremost, don't always rely on your guide to get you where you need to be with plenty of time to spare. The majority of guides I've encountered are excellent and efficient, but watch out for the laid back, unsure ones, especially if they've been entrusted with getting you on a flight.

I still don't know whether I was paying for a new ticket or whether I was paying a bribe to get me off the island. The way they were laughing at my misfortune makes me think the latter. Always carry a credit card to get you out of financial shtook, plus if your card is cloned, it's better it's a credit card rather than your bank account card - more to come on this topic.