It is not often that we run into airline problems when we travel but twice on this trip an airline has made changes and it has affect our connections. As we mentioned before Air Botswana completely canceled one of our flights and put us on an alternate flight to J’berg which would have landed after out connection had taken off. Yesterday, after trying to check in on line and getting the message ‘ all flights have been flown’, we checked the British Airways site and discovered that the flight time had been changed and this time we would not make our BA flight to from London to Vancouver.
In anticipation of a bigger screw up than a schedule change we are up early and at the airport more than 2 ½ hours ahead of the scheduled departure. Debbie’s premonition was correct, not only is the time of the flight changed, our names have been removed from the flight list.
Arriving early is a good idea. The first fellow we see has no idea as to how to proceed. All he knows is that we are not on the flight docket. Second guy has a go and gets nowhere, the manager shows up and there is stress on his face. First he gets us on the impending flight to London. We should be ½ way home with this. He doesn’t believe there is enough time between flights to make the connection to Vancouver so he rebooks us on the same flight for the next day. All of the drama is taking place on African time, pole pole (poley,poley), which means slowly, slowly. I am not sure there is such a word as ‘stat’ or the like in Swahili, at least we never heard it if there is. Our seats secured there are several other items that have to be resolved. First, the boarding passes. Again, pole pole, the fellow that is assigned to print those out for us is off helping one of the other agents do something else so we wait. My anxiety grows.
Customer service here does not seem to run the same way as at home. In Canada we are taught to focus on the problem and the guest at hand and only when there is a resolution do you move on to the next task. Here the newest problem seems to get the attention and the unresolved task is set aside. Oh, they eventually get back to us and I do not even know if the task that took them away is solved but we are again the focus.
Now we have to change our arrangements for the next two days, first our hotel reservation in Vancouver. The Manager dials the number of the Days Inn and gets a connection. The connection is bad and there is some discussion about whether or not the reservation is for today or tomorrow. We are in East Africa and several hours ahead of Vancouver time, by time we are already in Dec. 11, Vancouver is still in Dec 10. Before this can be sorted the connection is lost.
A different phone is attained, and with a bit of kafuffle the SIM card is changed and a new connection is made. This time I am given the phone and voila we have switched the reservation. Boy this pole pole thing is hard for us (or at least me).
Debbie met a nice young fellow born in Somolia, living in Tanzania, and holding a Canadian passport. He is returning to Canada to visit his family for Christmas. He offers us the use of his phone to call Westjet to see if we can change our flight for one day later. We make contact and of course ‘All agents are busy right now we will answer your call in the order in which it was received.’ We get the call to board, so as of right now we do not have a flight home. But we are off to London!
As opposed to our trip here we are flying in the daytime and it is relatively clear. Our route takes us over Nairobi so we see one of the dormant volcanoes close to Kilimanjaro out our side of the plane, quite an impressive pimple on a flat landscape.
Then. A short while later, we pass over the Libyan and Sahara Deserts. Debbie and I are glued to the window. I did not ever expect to see a desert on this scale and there they are. No one else seems to be enamoured but we take it all in. It is truly a sight. To see it from an altitude of 12,000M gives a perspective that could never be realized on the ground.
There are several manmade marks made on the sand and we wonder what they might be. We think we see pipelines, roads, wind farms, but we cannot be sure of any of it. Then we notice white spots amongst the golden sand and some black spots as well. Debbie figures out we are looking at low clouds and their shadows a very stunning illusion. It takes about 2 hours to fly over the entire desert and we do not leave our window.
We get to spend the night in London and have a plan to go into downtown tomorrow morning. We will walk for 3 or 4 hours and then head to the airport for our flight to Vancouver.
What we thought would be an interesting day has turned into just that- a little stress, a little poley-poley, a whole lotta sand and a bonus half day in one of the great cities of the world.