When the pilot is ready the passengers appear. No wait … isn’t it the other way around? CAROLINE HURRY can’t be sure
Robert Louis Stevenson assures us it’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive but he lived before the advent of budget airlines. No. The trick to travelling is to pack light. Toss those plans. Jettison expectations. They’ll only weigh you down. Have a drink instead. Here, have another …
My mistake was expecting the plane to take off to Maputo on time. We were, after all, strapped into our plush leather seats paging through the complimentary magazine, when the pilot announced that we’d be off in two ticks … just as soon as someone handed in his “paperwork”.
Tick. Tock. Fast forward four hours: By the time a plane, the requisite paperwork, a fresher crew and a partridge in a pear tree had been found, I had fortified myself with some dinky bottles of Amarula and a rather good dry white in an ORTIA lounge, courtesy of my husband’s Priority Pass card.
Explanations? Pah! Over-rated. What difference does it make? You’ll leave when you leave, right? When the pilot is ready, the passengers appear …
Be great if it were the other way around, but what can you do?
Truth is, passengers in South Africa have zero rights compared to Europe where airlines legally have to compensate passengers for overbooking and delayed flights. I conducted a small straw pole of my own.
Here’s what some of you said:
Stevie Godson: “Cathay Pacific is No. 3? After 16 hours on a Cathay Pacific flight, I stepped off with severe food poisoning! It took a couple of hours and a dose of Immodium before I could even leave the loo at Hong Kong airport.
“And British Airways No. 9? Four years ago – supposedly BEFORE all the luggage problems, they lost both our suitcases. It was December, freezing cold in London and they gave us a BA sleeveless T-shirt and an onboard toiletries kit. Bags – containing not only clothes but also all our family Christmas presents – only turned up days after Christmas. No compensation, no apology even.”
“Strangely, one of the flights I was LEAST looking forward to – Air Afrique from Guinea to Joburg – turned out to be one of the best: Clean, good food, superb service – amazing. I’d flown there on Sabena via Belgium but had no choice about the return trip and was dreading it so I was more than grateful.”
Rebecca Ali: I flew Emirates to Dubai and found it very relaxing even though it was economy class. I got a really good bargain too, by finding a Dubai flight online with Dial A Flight.
Martin Liefeldt: “People gripe about airlines all the time. The European Laws on air travellers’ rights are crazy. You don’t get the same protection on trains or busses. Our expectations are far too high. We demand cheaper flights and the only way we will get them is via better utilization of assets by airlines. Delays are the price. Why should an airline have to pay compensation because the weather is bad or because something is broken on a plane? I would hate to think a decision to fly is taken for commercial reasons. South Africa has one of the best domestic air networks in the world. Try the States. Try Europe. Our flights tend to be on time, our planes are clean and our cabin staff friendly (by comparison). Our pilots are superb. And the Jhb/Durban route on SAA is the shortest route in the world where a full meal is served. “
Peter Davies: “Anyone who has had the misfortune to fly regularly on domestic airlines in the USA will know the services offered in South Africa are bliss by comparison …”
Karin Bookatz Lewis: “My best flight experiences have been on SAA and Quantas. No mention of Air Canada, I noticed. I’m not surprised. In North America, there is NO compensation and there are no rights of passengers at all.”
Celeste Whitmore: “The only time I was ever airsick was on US domestic flights.”
Susan Pryor: “Having just got off a 10-hour Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore and waiting anxiously to find out if I am on a 13 hour flight onwards, I can attest to Singapore Airlines being very good.”
We’d like to hear more about which airlines you love and which ones you don’t. Leave a comment below or email me at Caroline@travelwrite.co.za