We’ve seen this before, on the back screen of a trendy young mother’s new car. It’s part love, part snobbish! But it works, it prepares us. We assume that you already have too much to deal with, we cant help but wonder why you’ve decided to bring it on the road. But that, right there, is why it works, we excuse you in subconscious indulgence.
But this is a different kind of baby – he is Nigerian. Destination? Lagos! His journey started in Dubai, over KQ, wait, to be exact, and I quote, a large KQ aircraft. His journey includes a brief stay at JKIA and viola, he is now on a “small plane”.
This is by no means a small plane – 737 300 carries 116 passengers with a max take off weight of almost 62 n half tons thrusting 22 thousand pounds at 38000 feet. But then again, KQ has a way of making you feel this plane is small. For once, I have a clear understanding of what flying coach really is – sardines might swim more gracefully.
So burly bald baby walks in from the back, heavy Nigerian accent, and its clear being on the end of the queue, he’s unfortunate to have where to place his clearly humongous hand luggage. Yeah, you know whats coming next – a Nigerian movie…
This flight is already delayed – its past 6 and we have not taxied. Am beginning to think today I lost my flying mojo. I always keep time, until other people come in play. The plane we are using was delayed from Luanda in Angola – due to God knows what.
Which was a blessing in disguise itself – because a certain Embraer 190 could not make a 55minute flight across the pond, because there were security clearances that delayed to come in. Which was ironic considering that I was the 2nd last flight to get onto that flight.
Now I repeat, that was not my fault, nor my style – I partnered with a man who prefers to take his time. Laying myself at the mercy of this gentleman led me to leave Kampala, at 130pm, knowing 24hrs earlier that if I did not make 230pm, there was every possibility that this flight would leave. If you have driven thru Kampala, by the lunch hour, you would know what this means: 135 – kabalagala, 145 – Makindye, 155 Makindye. 2Pm – Kibuye, 215 – Seguku, 220 – Nkumba, 229 – Airport Parking Lot.
Ofcourse the security guy said our flight was closed, and so 240 found us being cleared by Airport security without prior knowledge of Boarding Gate Officials. Yeah, Drama! Anyway, I have to play my last card, or else get left behind, miss a connection and have no explanation to my boss.
“Sir, we checked in online”. So 10 minutes to go thru customs and the KQ staff at the gate are really pissed by now. But in their records, they are actually missing 4 passengers. 3 checked in, 1 outright dumb! A couple of radio calls later, and one guy was let in. Now I began to shake. For once, my online check-in card might not rescue me. My chest was swelling when I heard my name screech out of the radio call, his instructions were clear, “Let Ssennoga in, the rest are not going”.
Now how do I explain to the gentleman, that I infact checked him in as myself and he too is on the list. The security guy is not happy with me not taking my clearance with 2 clenched fists. Anyway, 5 minutes later we were let in, in on the aircraft. Time Check? 3:05Pm – seated!
Time Check again? 3:50pm. Isnt that like the flying time to Nairobi? Well – we’r taxing out of EBB. Yes.
So as we banked eastward, it seemed like there was just enough time to climb to cruise and begin descent into NBI – not bad, for a delayed entire flight-time! Only problem, its now dangerously close to 5 oclock, no boarding passes for our connection which departs at 540. Figure out gate, passes and luggage in under 10 minutes, including landing, taxing, disembarking et al.
Managed to, only to find out connection has a “technical stop”. Cotonou, via Lagos! Thats a cool 4 hrs to Lagos, and about 1 to Cotonou. Time check? 530pm. If by this time, we are still seated in the gate, then there is no way we will depart on time. So I figure we’re in for another delay. I confirm my fears when a ground staff confirms the technical stop to Lagos.
So now we have Nigerians on board. Ladies are conspicous – light faces, usually spotting a golden something somewhere on their face and/or body. Guys are usually burly or at least muscled out, loud and almost obnoxious. They exude confidence, and on such flights, will almost certainly require a shopping cart to carry all their duty free. I am not biased, this is my 5th flight to west africa, and I have most certainly been taking notes.
Bold colours, picture perfect make up, and ofcourse large luggage. Also, tis always safe to expect such a flight to be full. Which is why they coined words like coach to describe flying economy on a KQ flight to west Africa. Ground staff tried, but on a small plane, with big Nigerians going home, you have to be patient – really patient.
If you happen to be at the end of the queue, then there is a chance the only thing you can guarantee is the seat number printed on your boarding pass. So as am taking in the delays and musing about the day, I hear a familiar loud accent.
He is big, and his bag is bigger. All but 4 passengers are seated, he alone is holding the other 3, because he hoards the aisle. As cabins get closed, and we seem ready to leave, this Nigerian is not about to sit, until his bulky bag, and 3 pieces of duty free shopping are tucked in the cabin on top of 18H.
His justification? KQ should learn to send bigger planes to Nigeria, or else stop flying there. A white lady next to me affirms – perhaps out of the sheer discomfort she’s had to sit down. As KQ ground staff engage the Nigerian verbally, he resigns, insisting his bag will not be checked in, BUT its got to be in a cabin somewhere he can see.
Another passenger relinquishes his spot, offers his bags to go to cargo hold, and there is just enough space for the duty free shopping, which is equally spread among 3 different cabins. The burly bald baby is still having a go at the ground crew, who are now, quite understandably, incensed, and threatening to throw him off the flight.
After a couple of exchanges with KQ ground crew, and he is assured his bag will have to go into cargo hold, or of course he can stay and take the morning flight on the “bigger air plane”. I can only think of one thing – the baby in this man has won the battle for supremacy, for now, with tail between legs, he hands over his bag and grudgingly sits.
As I turn to watch Emirates leave, the storm that’s been brewing over Nairobi is upon us, and I know for sure this is going to be a long flight.