The vast majority of content you’ll find here has been written by me. But, there are some stories I’m likely never to tell. David H and I have been friends since elementary school and he has a job that literally takes him to all corners of the earth. Here’s a quick spin through a very different travel experience than the standard New York to Chicago, from an airport many of us will never see the inside of.
Yesterday I flew from Pointe Noire in the Republic of Congo to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. This is Africa, so things generally do not run on time. My Ethiopian Airlines flight boarded about 45 minutes late, and then it got caught in a summer squall that washed out the runway. As we sat on the tarmac, a passenger decided he was going to miss his connection in Addis. So he asked the flight crew if he could return to the airport terminal. They refused, of course, since him deplaning would require them to remove his bags, and make the flight even later.
This man, however, felt he was entitled to get off, and no one was going to stop him.
So, he got up and tried to open the door.
Yep, you read that right. He tried to open the door while the plane was on the tarmac. I guess he was going to take a ride down the emergency chute and walk back?
What was interesting to me was that this was not someone who had never been on a plane before. He was well dressed. I was behind him in the boarding queue and overheard his conversation with another person. He was clearly educated. New travelers don’t typically pick an out-of-the-way city in Congo, so I suspect he’s an experienced traveler.
The plane turned around and went back to the gate area and parked. A hard stand was wheeled up to the plane, and a bevy of personnel entered. They took the man off the plane and put him in police custody. He started yelling that they had no right to treat him like this.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, his actions (and possibly his words, but I didn’t hear them) caused Ethiopian Airlines to decide to evacuate the plane and do a full security sweep. I applaud them for this action. Better safe than sorry – for real.
It caused a further 2 hour delay as 200 people deplaned off a 767-300ER, walked to the terminal to a holding area, and the plane was searched. While I didn’t mind it (I had a 5 hour layover in Addis, so I was probably ok), it’s still Africa — near the equator in the middle of their summer. It was hot. Very hot. And 100% humidity. So while I was fine being patient, my body was perspiring non stop for hours.
Finally they let us back aboard. It was certainly an interesting sight to see everyone wandering back to the plane with their luggage.
I spoke with the ground supervisor, and she indicated the man was going to be charged with a crime. So his insistence that he didn’t want to stay a night in Addis because of a missed connection, and that he had the right to stay in Congo, resulted him staying in Congo — but probably not in the hotel room, or for the duration, he was expecting!
I got to Addis 5 hours later, with 30 minutes to spare before boarding my flight to London. The next plane was a 777-300ER, with brand new lie-flat seating which I found very comfortable. After boarding, the flight supervisor walked around and handed everyone in business class a flower and welcoming us.
8 hours later, I saw this lovely sight, welcoming me to London. After 7 days in Africa, it felt good to see!