Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Evil Airline

Many of you have heard me bi… err… complain about Kenyan Airways before. So why, you may ask, did we choose them to fly us to Cairo over the Easter long-weekend? I am not one to point fingers of blame (Hubby) or to say that someone (Hubby) was being cheap and elected to use airmiles to pay for this flight rather than paying for a decent (Emirates) airline. Such behavior would be childish and not entirely relevant to the situation.

Hubby and I left our apartment at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday afternoon in plenty of time for our 5:30 p.m. flight. After making our way through security, we killed time in Java House and waited for our flight to be called. (I realize that all of this may seem obvious but bear with me. The time line will come in handy when you start sympathizing with me and raging against the Kenyan Airlines machine in a few paragraphs.) Once we arrived in our designated waiting area, we watched the clock tick slowly past half five and continued to wait for our flight.

I’m not sure exactly what time it was when we boarded the plane but we were still on the tarmac as the sun made its way across the sky and began to set. This being Nairobi, that means that we had been locked inside the plane for at least an hour when the announcement came over the loudspeaker that there was a mechanical problem with the airplane. Oh yay.

Half of the passengers took this opportunity to deboard and smoke cigarettes on the tarmac. My observations about how incredibly unsafe this was went unheard amid the rush of people flocking to the doors for some fresh air. About thirty minutes later, they told us that plane number one was kaput and that a second plane had been readied for us.

Unsurprisingly, this caused a stampede of people and hand luggage running across the tarmac toward the promised “working plane.” There we stood shivering on the steps demanding to be let in. Yeah, not so much.

We were herded back across the tarmac and into the holding area that would be our home for the next several hours. I feel it important in obtaining your sympathies to point out that Kenyan Airlines did not provide food for its hungry would-be passengers – heck, they didn’t even provide water! Someone who shall continue to remain nameless (Hubby) said that he would not pay to obtain these items if Kenyan Airlines wasn’t going to do it for free. (Hubby Edit: On principle, mind you.)

And so we sat in the extremely hot holding pen watching Mother Nature provide the latest delay in our plans. It didn’t just rain – the lashing rain beat down upon what we would later discover was our luggage.

Around 10:00 p.m. they finally decided that the plane and the rain were ready for us. At first, the airline officials tried to say that only people with umbrellas could board the plane but that lasted exactly 3 seconds before the rest of us charged toward freedom. At exactly 10:45, Plane Number Two took off.

But that is not the end of the story.

Because at 11:45 the pilot announced that our lovely second plane also had an electrical problem so we were turning around – back to Nairobi. On the plus side, since everyone was so tired, no one complained much.

This time when they put us in our holding cell, they locked all of the doors so that not even a breath of fresh air could enter the room. And of course, since by this time we should have already arrived in Cairo, they continued to starve us.

Since this is getting long, I’m going to skip the parts of the story where Hubby left me in the holding cell to do goodness-knows-what along with several other irate passengers. Instead I’ll skip ahead to Hubby and I sitting in a taxi (paid for by Kenyan Airlines, thank you) on our way home.

The next morning, the refugees of our KQ flight all gathered in the airport Java House to swap stories and drink over-priced coffee that the airline still wasn’t paying for. When we had gone gone home, most of the passengers had made their way to various hotels throughout the city to enjoy the 4 hours of sleep that were left to them the night before. We got to know various people from vacationing Canadians, an aid worker who was literally our neighbor, and a hot German guy – I don’t remember what he did other than look really hot. (Hubby Edit: Hmmph, I knew she wanted to get rid of me -- SGH, I think this is our chance!)

Our 8:30 a.m. flight was – and I’m sure you’ll find this shocking – late. But by 10 o’clock we were in the air and on our way to Egypt. We arrived in Cairo 16 hours late with our entire first day almost entirely shot. On the plus side, at least we didn’t pay for the flight thanks to those airmiles.

I know today’s blog is already long but I’d like to take a moment to address Kenyan Airways on the off chance they are reading this. Other than a taxi to and from home after Plane Number Two died, we were given and offered zero compensation - not even a bottle of water or a stale cookie. Moreover, during this entire debacle, we were kept incredibly uninformed about what was going on. We were kept in locked rooms without even so much as a, “We’re working on it.”

This is the fourth trip I’ve taken on Kenyan Airlines. The second time I’ve been delayed overnight due to the poor maintenance of their planes, which appear to break every time I get near one. And the third time they’ve screwed something up. Finally, this is the last time I will EVER fly on this god-forsaken airline.


bankelele said...

Normaly I'll be the first to jump in and defend the "Pride of Africa" but that was really bad, bad treatment - and I thought that only happened on domestic flights!

I hope you write/file an official complaint and see/how if they respond

Anonymous said...

You should try sitting on the AA seats for 12 hours! But no delays or bad planes--just bad seats and rotten food.

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

What a nasty nasty experience on KQ the pride of Africa! Sorry for that. Sometimes when they delay passengers they serve biscuits and those cheap juices. I don't know which is better - that or starving!

I agree with Bankelele you should try filing an official complaint.

Nairobi Typ0 said...

Bankelele, Wanjiku,

Thanks for the comments! :)

We definitely plan to write an official complaint to the airline. I realize these things happen all the time but they seem to happen to "the pride of Africa" more than any other airline i've ever flown. Or maybe i'm just a jinx...

At least when they give you expired juice and stale bikkies you know they recognize your existence. LOL

If they respond to our letter i will certainly share their mea culpas here.

Oh and merthyr, you should have known better than to fly an american carrier in the first place! LOL

Anonymous said...

Enough about the flight, can you blog some more about the hot hot hot german?? hee hee!!


Anonymous said...

It was a horrible experience, but this I say with shame and a heavy heart, it is preparation for travel back in the States. USAirways is notorious for that type of garbage.

Anyway at least at LaGuardia, they circle around the runways for about 2 hrs before coming back to the gate.

Flying coach from LGA is worse than New York subway rides.

Anonymous said...

True re flying American carriers but trying to get flyer miles redeemed at the last minute with Cdn is not going to happen, so...it was aa.