This is a story by "the other E", who flew (or rather tried to fly) to Nairobi last Saturday, while Europe was hit by a major storm (see this video of a near crash the very same day).
A wake up call at 4:00 am is not an ideal way to start the day. But hey, it is part of the job. Am at the airport on time for a scheduled flight to Zurich. All is good. Flight takes off on time.
I am flying with a colleague and I meet a man I know on the plane. He is going to a forestry assessment mission to Dar. I managed to get a cup of coffee at the airport before take off.
The flight gets pretty bumpy over the Alps. The captain comes on the PA and says to buckle up as the winds are getting stronger. Allright, we don't have too long to go, so how bad can it get? Right? Right?
We start our descent. We are about 500 meters -maybe less- from the ground. The plane is all over the place. Left, right, up, down. People start to rumble... It is not pleasant. The bumps are really big, the people more nervous. We are close, quite close to the ground by now and unexpectedly the plane takes a 60 degree curve up. The engines roar, people scream and the plane takes off again. "Where are we going?", I wonder.
A few minutes later, when the engines stop screaming, a shaky voices comes on the PA. To my great discomfort, it is the captain. Gosh, he sounds shaken up. He admits the winds were too strong for him to land and the computer system warned him it was too dangerous to even try. So he made a judgement call. We are now going to Geneva where the weather is more clement. Geneva? But I have an onward flight in one hour. What do you mean, Geneva??
Anyway, nothing to be done. Time to relax. The flight attendants try to look calm. It is 8:45 am. I ask for my first Gin and Tonic. I mean, what the heck. It must be later than this somewhere in the world. Another GT for the colleague next to me, a cognac for the guy behind. Thirty minutes later, we are in Geneva. People wonder what is going to happen to their flights. The crew obviously says to wait. We will know more later.
We refuel, the captain comes out of the flight deck. He does not look a happy camper, but he keeps it together. "We will be taking off as soon as the weather in Zurich improves". Oh well, time for another GT. I missed my connecting flight to Nairobi by now anyway.
An hour later the weather is reportedly better. We take off towards Zurich. Start our taxing out, the engines roar, the race towards the sky starts. Well not for long. The captain slams on the breaks very hard. Glasses make loud noise, people again show how uneasy they are. I told them: "Two Gin Tonics before 10:00 am work wonders!". They should have listened!
The captain on again. The electric system failed as we were taking off, so he had to abort. "He switched to the secondary one and we are going to try again". Excuse me? TRY?? "You must be kidding", I think, "I fly Swiss because I think you KNOW what you are doing....not because I want you to TRY!!!" The two GTs give me the giggles.
"Whatever", I say to myself, this is going to be a day to be scared shit but not to die. My colleague reassures me. And the pilot, he tries again. And this time we actually take off. The weather in Zurich has improved but only marginally really. A lady behind us is in tears. She was going to the Caribbean on holidays, but now, all she wants to do is to go home. I suggest a medicinal GT. She looks at me weirdly. "It is not the destination, it is the journey that matters", I say, but from her reaction, I think she wants to kill me!
OK, we land in Zurich... Obviously the flight to Nairobi has long gone. The only flight available is via London tonight. So we still have to fly thru this shitty weather in Europe again, and inshallah we should be in Nairobi tomorrow.
And I thought trouble would start in Nairobi if the political situation got rocky! I had not considered the weather patterns in Europe. I should have known better. I always try to avoid Europe in the winter, so I should have headed South and flown via Dubai, Qatar.
But "live and learn", I think while we are sitting in the lounge with yet another drink in our hands. They are putting us on Virgin to Nairobi. The airline known for baking chocolate chip cookies and having double beds with "privacy" curtains. Yuhuuu!
PS: yes, I think I am drunk....and the next flight is not for another 2 hours....better stop drinking....
(The story continues: A day in hell - Part II: Shaken and Stirred!)
Picture courtesy x-factor-e