Monday, May 23, 2011

How Was Your Flight?

Getting on airplanes and zipping across the world is the most natural thing in the world to me. I’ve been traveling on planes since before I can even remember. I thought that I had experienced everything. After all, I had been on planes that made emergency landings due to sick passengers. I had been on other planes that started off down the runway and then suddenly stopped. “Oops, sorry folks, our electrical system has malfunctioned; give us a moment while we work on it.” That happened three times before we finally took off. Just when I thought there was no more to experience, my family boarded an Egypt Air flight bound for Ghana.

Egypt Air was the fastest route to get from Ghana to Singapore, at that particular time. My family traveled on it so many times; we knew the stewards and stewardesses on a first name basis. The trip had been uneventful from Singapore to Cairo. Now we were boarded and ready to head from Cairo to Accra. Everything was going smoothly. In fact, there was one point in the flight that my husband and I looked at each other and wondered if we weren’t dreaming. There had been no major catastrophes. The kids were behaving. Everything was just great. That was right before we landed in Kano, Nigeria.

In order to get to Ghana, the plane needed to land in Kano, Nigeria. After Kano, it flew on to Lagos and then to Accra. This was not a complicated process, but on this day it would prove to be quite the production. Normally, we would wait forty minutes before the plane took off. This time we waited for an hour and a half, but there was no announcement made signaling our departure. The children became fidgety and the other passengers began to pace up and down the aisle asking each other what was going on. Finally, someone decided to enlighten us on the situation.

“We are sorry to inform you that a dust storm has made it impossible to land at the Lagos Airport. All passengers who were going to Lagos should deplane now and a bus will take you to the terminal.”

Well, that seemed like an easy enough request. We settled back in our seats thinking that now all those passengers should get off the plane so we could get on our way. No sooner had we settled back in our seats when a mild uproar started. One large Nigerian gentleman took it upon himself to become the ringleader.

“We will not get off this aeroplane! Of course they will leave us here. We must have an assurance that they will take us to Lagos.”

I believe he cited times when a cousin’s mother’s father had been left at that airport and never made it to Lagos. Others quickly joined him in his rally cry. I looked around for the cabin crew; they had conveniently disappeared. More ranting and raving went on, and more announcements were made instructing the passengers to disembark. By this time the ringleader was fired up and he jumped up onto a seat, waved his fist in the air, and shouted, “We are commandeering this aircraft!”

My husband and I groaned. We should have guessed that our flight was not going to be uneventful. Hadn’t experience long since taught us that? We settled back into our seats with our in-flight magazine which by this point we had practically memorized. Another passenger leaned forward and shouted, “Why don’t you get off so that we can go to Accra.” Apparently the ringleader didn’t think this was a good idea and blustered forth with retaliation. At that point the P.A. system blurted out a very interesting announcement, “If you do not disembark from the aircraft immediately the Nigerian army will come and forcibly remove you from the aircraft.”

All pandemonium broke loose. Several women threw themselves in the aisle wailing. Some children burst out crying because of the loud screaming. Mr. Ringleader shouted for everyone to keep quiet. “They are lying!” he stated. He was not going to be deterred from getting the airline to guarantee transport to Lagos. That was about the time we heard an announcement filtering up from outside the opened door of the airplane.

“This is the Nigerian Army, we have the aeroplane surrounded. If you do not surrender we will be forced to overtake the aircraft.”

I peeked out the window and sure enough there were soldiers surrounding the aircraft. Inside the cabin a few more ladies were fainting. One woman ran down the aisle screaming, “They are serious, they will shoot us!” The ringleader crumbled. He immediately started yelling, “We are surrendering,” as he made a wild dash for the door. Within a few moments the cabin was emptied of the Lagos passengers.

The rest of our flight to Accra went smoothly. Once at the Kotoka Airport in Accra, our friends greeted us and asked, “How was your flight?”

“Oh, it was just fine,” was our response. After all, we made it to our destination, didn’t we? 


*This is something I was asked to write for "Among Worlds" Magazine a few years ago.

14 comments:

  1. It is so funnnnnnnnnnyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. I cannot believe it....Needed to call army...wow

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  2. A- It is funny NOW as I look back- but not so funny to be in the midst of it- ha ha!! :)

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  3. What an incredible experience! Good you can laugh about it now. I took lots of planes in my life between France and the USA but never came to feel as at ease in that type of travel as what your attitude seemed to be ...

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  4. I'm not sure how 'at ease' I ever feel- but just get so used to hearing the expression, "Sorry, this has NEVER happened before...." my mind set is, 'better to laugh than cry' :)

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  5. What a story! That ringleader sounds like quite a piece of work!

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  6. @ Sue- he was quite the 'character'-- but in his defense, he probably just wanted to get to his destination after a VERY long flight :)

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  7. Whew! And I thought I have had some travel experiences. This puts having our plane struck by lightning in perspective, after all it only lasted a moment. :-)

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  8. @ counting- oh my goodness- NO I think having your plane struck by lightening tops my story!! Have you done a blog post about the experience...I would love to read it!

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  9. lol! Ok ok so i know i shouldnt laugh about it...must have been quite frustrating for you. but it is a slightly funny story :D :D

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  10. Limenlemons- you are definitely allowed to laugh :) ha ha!! It was a 'funny' experience.

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  11. Travel can be so much fun. You remind me of some of my more "fun" trips over the years by bus and by plane... All humorous to think about now - but not at the time.

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  12. @ Peter- oh yes, I have plenty of those trips which I can laugh at now ...however, NOT when I was going through them :)

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  13. LOL tho I found it funny I do understand tht u must have spent some anxious moments fearing the outcome.
    Thank goodness everything went off ok!!!

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  14. Nancy- Hurrah! You found me :)

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