Friday, December 18, 2009

Johannesburg Stop

Map picture


Lisa and I are currently sitting here in Johannesburg, South Africa cooling our heels until our flight to the Seychelles departs this evening at midnight. It has been a very long day already, and it will become even more so after our 7 hour layover here in Johannesburg followed by a 7 hour flight to Mahe’ Island, where we land around 7 in the morning.

As everyone knows, I absolutely love flying – even if it is not in my own plane. But I tell you the truth, the TSA has just about taken all of the joy out of that life’s pleasure.

We arrived yesterday morning at the Kansas City airport 2 hours early for our flight. With such a small airport, that should have been more than enough time. Obtaining our boarding passes and checking the bags took only a few minutes after which we made a quick bathroom stop and headed to the security checkpoint for our gate. There was a small line, not too daunting, but it was not moving very fast. To fast forward, by the time we cleared security our plane had landed, disembarked all the passengers and was boarding again. We ran to get out seats only to have an hour wait while the remaining passengers cleared security. To say that security was a little over the top in Kansas City would be an understatement. As an example, every single item in my carryon was removed from the bag and separately x-rayed. Talk about dumb – I know the drill so everything in the bag was carefully placed into clear plastic bags so it could be easily identified. That did not make any difference; in the end I was given back an empty bag and seven plastic carrying trays containing my stuff. To pack that bag had taken hours, but now I had to hurriedly throw everything inside and run for the gate, just hoping I had not missed something. Everyone was subject to the same level of scrutiny. Seriously, this is overkill.

Departing late for Atlanta, we arrived only a few minutes from our scheduled time. That made no difference to us since we had a 3 hour layover; in which we grabbed some lunch and found our way to the international terminal. We boarded the flight and the departure time came and went – still we sat. Finally the captain came on to tell us that one of the passengers scheduled for this flight did not show up, and so his bags had to be found and removed from the aircraft before we could depart. That took yet another hour!

We had seats in business class, seats 3A and 4A, which I thought was a little weird. Weird is the only way to describe the seating on this aircraft. Imagine if you will a plain wooden coffin with six foot sides. Remove the bottom and shorten one side to half its length. Then fit a reclining aircraft seat into the box and there you have our seating arrangements. Our heads were at the window and we faced into the cabin, each little box side by side. No one could see outside the aircraft without completely turning around. To gain some space the boxes were set at a 45 degree angle with all of us facing forwards and towards the isle. I could not see the person in front of me, or the person behind me (Lisa.) So for the entire flight Lisa and I could not see nor talk to each other without getting up from our seats and standing in the aisle. To make matters worse, for me at least, the box was very narrow. I just about needed a spray of pam to slide into my seat. To complete the experience, I can tell you that the seat was one of the most uncomfortable I have ever encountered and so I sat in quiet agony in my little box for the 16 hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg – plus the hour waiting to depart. Other than that we had a great flight!

Oh, did I tell you I lost my glasses somewhere in that wonderful little box. When I went to sleep I put my glasses in my shirt pocket. When I awoke they were gone. No matter how hard I searched or how hard the three crew members searched, the glasses had disappeared. Early this morning before landing, I tried again, and at the last minute, I caught a glint of something that was directly behind my seat in a hole that led to the seat’s mechanism. There was the little devil, but getting to it was yet another story.

Needless to say we are glad to be here in South Africa. Our bags are checked onward and life is good. We do not yet have boarding passes for the ongoing flight, nor is the flight listed on the public schedules. People tell us not to worry; someone from the airline will show up before midnight to provide check in… So, keep your fingers crossed.

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