When it dawned on me that we would have to wait for the next flight in the next 24 hours, I really was thrown abyss. What was I going to do spending an entire day waiting at the airport for a connect flight to Accra? And of course, with the knowledge that my dear mother whom I have not seen in months was in the kitchen engineering her skills to make my favourite local dish “banku” with peanut soup.
How did I get here?
After almost five months volunteering in East Africa, Uganda, it was only fair to enjoy the experience of flying in any of the prestigious national carriers which continue to make East Africa an envy of its neighbours in Africa. There is Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and Rwanda Airlines.
All these airlines came in highly recommended. I have a couple of friends who had flown with Ethiopian and Air Rwanda. My travel agency had recommended Ethiopian Airlines too even though the rates were same. With Ethiopia I would have spent about six hours in Addis Ababa before connecting to Accra whiles with Kenya Airways only two hours. For me the latter seemed more stress free and quite enticing since I really wanted to meet my family and friends and really had a short time to stay in Ghana.
My travelling partner, my dear wife who holds a German passport was also coming along. We had done all the necessary arrangements in Accra for her to get a visa upon arrival in Accra. The dawn flight from Entebbe airport to Nairobi JMK was less than 45minutes. Kenya Airways was fully aware of travel destinations but never raised a question about visa till the last minute when our boarding passes were being inspected and my partner was told you can not travel because they were not sure she will be allowed into the country.
Explanations that she was even my partner and that we had made sufficient arrangements and that would not be a problem was not entertained by this very rude lady in red manning the gate. She said this was new guidelines and she was just doing her job. My partner lived in Ghana for years and frequently visits because of her work with local organisations in Ghana. There were a couple from Uganda who we flew in to Nairobi going to Accra. The man who is a Pastor, the name on his Ugandan passport and the name on the visa confirmation was not the same but guess what he was allowed to board the plane.
When all our pleas for her to let us argue our case proved futile, she asked me to either join the plane leaving my partner behind. This I really found strange considering her being a lady and in a circumstance of this nature how she would have felt if his boyfriend or husband was put in such a position to decide. It was clear she was not going to allow her so I decided to stay behind too.
I quickly rushed to the front desk to see how we could arrange another flight. There were a crowd of disgruntled customers who also had various problems and the answers coming out from the ladies and men in Red (Kenya Airways staff) were not that of empathy. People were made to pay for extra luggage’s on transit. I still do not know how this could be justified.
I was thrown a bill of almost 2/3 of our flight cost to be booked on the next flight which leaves the following day. They don’t accept credit cards but cash. This brought the sharp realisation why my brother travels around with huge sums of money. Throughout this ordeal I just realised how these people thought they were doing us a favour by providing us an opportunity to fly in their prestigious machines.
It took me almost five hours standing in front of these Reds to get our flight arrangement sorted. During this process I had called the local agent in Kampala but the response was I told you what to do and you decided otherwise. He quickly sent me estimates of how much it would cost to get on the next flight. His rates were lower than even what the airline was collecting at the airport.
Our fate as stranded passengers brought us together. We had to share strategies on how to get the Reds to attend to us and stop fidgeting with their phones and gossiping and laughing in vernacular.
Even though it started on the wrong footing with anxiety, confusion and disrespect, I had no choice but to accept my fate as it was. Since it was now clear we had to spend 24 hrs to wait to join the next flight we had to get some few supplies, toothbrushes, toothpaste and deodorant. It was all locked in our suitcases jettison somewhere in the airport. Paid in dollars.
During the day I also had to do some printouts our visa clearance from Ghana $4 a sheet. The good thing was there is a free WIFI which offered me an opportunity to do some organisational work and later put this piece together.
I also had the opportunity to do more window shopping as I practically wandered around the transit lounge and in between enjoyed coffee, local Kenyan dishes and wines in the fancy restaurants littered in the airport.
This really tore my pocket.