Transport around South Africa is a favourite subject that everyone enjoys moaning about. Usually the thread of the conversation centers around how terribly our minibus taxis drive, the lack of bus and rail services we offer and the mess that the Gau-Train is creating in Sandton.
Of course people also moan about airplane delays and SAA's blatant disinterest in customer service (or is that just me?), but rarely do we have to close one of our major airports twice within the week. Maybe the fact that the entire Cape Town International airport is approximately the size of the waiting area at Heathrow or JF Kennedy makes it seem unimportant to the rest of the world. The fact, however, that it is the gateway to South Africa's tourism hub of the Western Cape, makes it pretty damn important to us.
Now there may be a saying that any publicity is good publicity, but I think in Nationwide's case this may may an exception. After losing one of its engines during take-off, the airline freaked its passengers out just a teensy bit. Fortunately nobody was injured. Those of us lucky enough to be on other flights were, however, treated to three hours of enjoying the warmth and hospitality of the airport.
With not enough seating to cater for even a third of the people waiting for the airport to re-open, the crowd in the departures lounge were able to practice their balance (shifting from one foot to another for three hours of standing with yor luggage can be beneficial), patience and people skills, while shorties like me practised holding their breath (being at armpit level in a crowd SUCKS). We could even fill in convenient little cards answering the question, 'Have you enjoyed your journey through our airport?', distributed thoughtfully in boxes on every available wall by the South African Airports Company just for this reason, I'm sure. Needless to say, their customer services department will have some colourful reading material coming its way.
My airline was kind enough to realise that, with the only coffee shop packed to the max, and after hours of standing, its passengers migt be a tad hungry, and dutifully provided us with gourmet refreshments comprising a tiny packet of peanuts and a bottled water or juice box.
We were at no point told about the engine-dropping incident (probably wise not to tell a crowd of grumpy passengers that one of the airplanes they were hoping to embark onto had decided to shed an engine on take-off). Instead we listened to a recored message played over and over about a plane running into some problems with debris (the word for engine in airlinese) on the runway.
Luckily, the captain on my flight believed in honesty being the best policy, and informed us all of the situation as we were about to take-off after finally boarding. He obviousy also has a gift in evangelism, as I've never seen so many people on a plane start praying so quickly.
After landing safely, albeit many hours late, I realised that we had been very lucky. Rather 3 hours late than leaving earlier and being on the flight that lost an engine.
There was a hit song in the 80s of the classic song with slightly different lyrics. Here are my suggestions:
Drop the engine
Let's try an air balloon
Drop the act now
We'll never reach the moon
Drop the pretence
This is no easy ride up
Don't use your right wing
We only need the left one
Liable, damages, prosecute, grievances... you'll see me in court, you'll see me in court!