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LETTER: Unusual airport experiences

When I went to the check-in counter I was astonished to discover that the flight had already left

EDITOR – In the 1970’s I was a young school teacher.

The rand was worth more than the US dollar and air travel was comparatively cheap. You could fly to Europe and have six stop overs for the price of your ticket. It was on one of these stop overs that I had a huge shock and maybe a narrow escape. On my return journey from the UK I had spent two days in Istanbul. I had spent the rest of my cash at the airport. I was due to land in Tel Aviv at 11pm and then take an El Al flight to South Africa at 1pm. But when I went to the check-in counter at Tel Aviv airport I was astonished to discover that the flight had already left. I should have checked the information at Istanbul airport I was told. I sat down on the floor and burst into tears. However, there were some businessmen who had meetings to attend in Johannesburg the following day and they were also upset.

The airline agreed to take full responsibility and told me that I could be accommodated at a nearby hotel until the next flight to South Africa, or fly to Rome the following day and from there back to Johannesburg. All at the expense of El Al, the Israeli airline.

I opted to fly to Rome and from there back to South Africa. As I finally arrived at Jan Smuts (now OR Tambo) airport, I saw the poster headlines on all the newspaper stands: “Israel at war!” In the 1980’s I had an equally remarkable airport experience. I had visited a friend in Houston, USA, and decided that I would break my journey back to South Africa by visiting other friends in Essex, UK, before flying back that night. The train I boarded in Colchester and headed for London, broke down on the way. I didn’t think that could happen in the UK. So when I arrived at Heathrow, boarding had almost closed. Economy class was full. However, there was an available seat in first class. Did I mind?

My jacket, bought at an Oxfam (charity) shop was hung up in the first class wardrobe. As I perused the menu I sipped champagne, with the cabin crew waiting for my instructions.



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