Unfortunately, as that plane was involved in taking Zimbabwe’s delegates to and from the Climate Change Conference jolly in Copenhagen, the flight has been “re-scheduled”, for tomorrow. (I have crossed fingers.)
As a newspaper and magazine food, drink and travel critic I’m partially paid to constructively bitch and moan, but if UM 9724 L does take off as (re) scheduled at 11am on Saturday, and I’m safely on it, that journey will coincidentally suit me better than the original planned flight.
This is the only time in many years of flying AZ that the national carrier has seriously let me down, but as I’m only, at this stage, going on to Aberdeen by road, the alteration is no personal train smash.
If I’d planned for a year to stay in transit at “LGW” (as we pros call Gatwick) with hours, or even minutes, to catch scheduled flights to (say) a Swiss, Austrian or Canadian skiing holiday, scuba-diving on the Red Sea or the Caribbean or –– much worse –– a family wedding in Sri Lanka, Sweden, Spain or Suriname I’d now be spitting blood. (Because I would almost certainly miss such an unrepeatable event.)
At this moment many thousands of would-be passengers are nervously biting nails waiting to see if the threatened 12 day strike by grossly overpaid, often highly supercilious and totally unhelpful cabin staff on British Airways takes place.
If so, such draconian industrial action will ruin Christmas and New Year for lots of folk who have either no time, or spare funds to make alternative travel arrangements.
Such is the inconvenience of flying.
Casting my mind back over almost a lifetime of travel, high spots and low spots were the attempted hijacking of the Mediterranean Shipping Company’s MV Melody by Somali pirates north of the Seychelles in April this year. If they’d succeeded I’d probably be penning this to you from “somewhere in the Horn of Africa” while living off goat and camel droppings.
As a teenage reporter I stupidly refused to accompany my family on a Christmas cruise. Their Greek liner, the SS Lakonia, caught ablaze somewhere between the Canary Islands and Madeira on Christmas Eve 1963, sinking a week later. There was much loss of life.
South African Airways once let several of us down at Tenerife, in the Canaries, when a strike at Heathrow meant they couldn’t take off. SAA’s hospitality while we cooled our heels for a day or two was overwhelming.
About a year later, a Boeing 707 of the same airline sliced the tail off a Capital Airlines DC10 on taxiing for takeoff at Athens. After the Canaries incident, I confidently forecast us being put up in a Hilton or a Sheraton Hotel until the mess was sorted out.
Strictly on a parsimonious Zimbabwean forex holiday allowance, I’d just spent 10 days in a student backpackers’ dump in Glyfada. SAA booked us into an even worse hovel, also in Glyfada! Elderly people couldn’t handle the steep stairs (there was no lift!)
But other than a sudden, chilling, heart-stopping loss of altitude in a helicopter over the Victoria Falls this year (twice that’s happened!) and slipping off the back of a safari game-viewing vehicle (missing my head on sharp rocks by centimetres) in Matabeleland South, it has been a largely uneventful year which took me to England (twice), Scotland, Wales, the US (twice), Mexico, Belize (ex-British Honduras), Mozambique (twice), Kenya, the DRC (briefly), Botswana (twice), Zambia, South Africa, Reunion, Mauritius, the Seychelles, Jordan, Egypt and Italy.
God (and Air Zimbabwe!) willing, by the time you read your Standard on Sunday, I’ll be in Scotland (again) having passed through England in the dark.
Travel certainly broadens the mind.
Like drinking, I’ll give it up one of these days!