FlySafair flight delay: A seven-hour airport ordeal marked with several life lessons  

Turbulance in life is inevitable and we are going to need more than just a weather radar device to navigate it.


I found myself a comfy spot. A row of seats, with one wedged between two walls. No human could possibly sit here. I mean, look at this set-up…

The perfect nook or cranny at gate 13 at the King Shaka International Airport.

But it was perfect for me. Especially in those hours way past my bedtime, where I needed a space to hide away from the world and other restlessly waiting passengers whose patience was also running thin. With my back to the wall, I wedged myself in there and whipped out my trusty ol’ laptop.

It was 18 April, and our flight from King Shaka International Airport to Lanseria was delayed by three whole hours. Some technical issue, FlySafair cited in its apology SMS.

On Twitter, the airline explained that thick fog in Cape Town had seen a number of flights cancelled or diverted which had a serious knock-on effect on the rest of the flights.  

Kindly proceed to gate 13 for your complimentary food voucher,” they said.

I had already shoved into my face with whatever I could swipe my card or tapped my phone for. That Wimpy milkshake hit the spot.

The screen with the delayed flights and King Shaka International Airport.

I kindly declined the voucher – which was valid for any of the surrounding restaurants at the airport and offered it to the flight attendant who looked as exhausted as all of us, but was still doing her best to answer questions and soothe what seemed like adult tantrums from those who’s patience data ran out. She needed it.

Aimless thoughts

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As I sat there, in my little nook (or cranny) I thought maybe I should change my bank account. The FNB slow lounge looked like an oasis in that now deserted airport. Was it an Aspire account I needed? I couldn’t really remember.

Ah! But the thought of changing debit orders was just too much to think about at that moment. The bond account, the insurances, medical aid, cellphones and tablets, Netflix, DStv, iTunes… It was too much and the thought of it alone was eating well into my essential data… that patience data.   

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It was a Tuesday, in Durban, which had been a scorching one. I took a screenshot of the thermometer as it hit 35 degrees around noon. But the sun had set and a chilliness had crept it. I fished out the puffy jacket and fur boots from my hand luggage that I had originally arrived from Johannesburg with. The ones that seemed ludacris to rock up in just hours before.

It was going to be a long night. Might as well settle in, I told myself. But just then the Wi-Fi cut out. Turns out, King Shaka had a four-hour limit on it. ‘Try log in again tomorrow,’ the note accompanying the error message read. What hope was there now for all these passengers with seriously delayed flights? We were doomed.

Reflections

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Trying to be less mentally melodramatic, I closed my tabs and opened a Word document. Might as well do the one thing I loved the most. Write and reflect.

One thing was immediately clear from this whole setup. I was alone in this situation. No accompanying friend or family member. What I was not alone in was the amount of people who were also travelling (and were now stranded) alone. But none of us seemed terribly troubled by this. This is life as we know it now.

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I thought about my mother and elderly aunts who, in their day, never travelled alone for fear of their safety and that they might be left stranded without a way of contacting anyone. How lucky we are now.

The proverbial fruit

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I stared at my phone lying face down next to me, focusing on the outline of the apple with what I always presumed was Eve’s bitemark in it. How this device has bestowed upon us the knowledge (and portal) of both good and evil, and made us the powerful generation we are – brave enough to venture forth into the world, ace out.

Our friends are always reachable on Whatsapp. I didn’t need to try strike up conversation with the angry fellow ‘strandee’ next to me. What solace could they truly offer when they themselves felt so helpless in the situation? Instead, I sought comfort for my dire situation from those who were still awake, scrolling aimlessly, and still had a slither of energy to offer consolation from the comfort of their duvet.

A lift home would always be available. I didn’t need to arrange and rearrange being picked up when I landed (whenever that would be at that stage). I knew I could always just log on to Uber when I did.

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The lady next to me entertained her crabby toddler with pre-downloaded episodes of Cocomelon on Netflix. (If only I had the foresight to have done the same to entertain myself.)

And luckily, living in South Africa taught me to always carry a charged-up power-bank. This powerful generation knows how powerless we can be sometimes.

I felt secure. Five hours passed since I arrived at the airport before the nose of an aircraft finally appeared in the distance, signally hope.

Finally, the aircraft arrives

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We all cheered as it taxied into the boarding gate, and we lined up to board. Fortunately, FlySafair forewent its priority boarding practice at that hour and just allowed those of who us who stuck it out to just go, just get on that plane, gurl. It would have been as much in bad taste as that whole situation on the Titanic when the rescue vessel finally rocked up. This was our rescue vessel and boy were we relieved to see it.

Finally, we were en route in the air to our destination. The flight was quick and smooth. We arrived just after 1am. As I rolled my bags out of the airport, I logged onto the Uber app to book a driver home, dreaming of my bed at that moment.

Apps jammed

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For some reason, the app was jammed. It searched and searched for a driver but it was to no avail. I looked over at the gentleman next to me. It seemed he was having the same problem. And so was the lady next to him.

The demand was high, as stranded passengers from all flights started to arrive and the availability of drivers at that ungodly hour was scarce. I decided to try the Bolt app. “Due to increased demand, fares are high” the app stated, with a R160 trip now priced at above R600.

Was I desperate enough? Yes. It was cold and I was exhausted, so I tapped confirm. But even that could not confirm at that hour. Eventually, prices hit a range far more expensive than the flight ticket we just took. But even that we struggled to confirm.

I tried calling the friends who I thought would be awake and able to assist at that hour. But there was no one who responded. Who even calls anymore – just text.

Human interaction

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What were we ever going to do? At this point we all looked up from our screens and started talking to each other. People were checking in with people to see if they managed to get a lift home.

“My husband is on his way, we can drop you home,” one lady told another. The guy who managed to score a taxi offered to share the ride with another.

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This was how we were going to survive this at this hour. I knew I had to speak to someone if I was going to get home. Fortunately, someone approached me too, asking where I was going. Our destinations were close to each other so we decided to work together to try secure a ride home. After two hours of waiting, we eventually managed to confirm a ride. We finally shared it home at 3am.

Yes, our devices offer us a great deal of independence. And we really are happy with just being an island. But we desperately need to learn that we will always, always need human kindness and to work together at various points in our lives. It takes a village to raise a child in this world. It’s a no-brainer that it would still take more than a virtual environment for that child to survive and thrive in it.

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