Saturday, August 31, 2013

Exit Rows And A Crowded Lounge: Notes Along The Way

We got to the airport (VFA) at just about the right time after a ride in a spiffy van driven by a well-spoken young man with a nine-year-old son.

He asked us, "What is the most important secret of success?"

"A work ethic, setting goals, and treating others fairly and kindly," we replied

What an awesome responsibility, suspecting he was passing our wisdom on to his son.

We stood in line to check in for quite some time but it wasn't too warm. We checked in quickly and learned that the government of President Mugabe, like our own, requires all passengers to remove their shoes. At least they only have metal detectors though.

We had asked hopefully for exit-row seats on checking in, and didn't understand the agent's reply, but thanked him. When we boarded (the plane was a little late), lo and behold we had an exit row all to ourselves. Not only that, but on a reasonably full plane the entire exit row in front of us across the aisle was empty, while tourists crammed themselves into lesser seats.

People on Flyertalk laugh at the so-called "Kettles" (based on the famous "Ma and Pa Kettle" movies), inexperienced passengers who carry everything but the kitchen sink, but when they don't know enough to ask for exit row, we'll travel with them anytime.

We went through immigration at JNB after a 10-minute wait - not bad at all. We walked across to the Intercontinental, picked up our larger bag, and returned to the terminal. Kathy repacked and we then paid 60 Rand to have the bag wrapped in that heavy-duty cello-type material.

We then discovered a water bottle containing the remnants of some gin purchased back at LHR. Let us not quibble over the monetary value of the gin. Suffice it to say that Kathy unwrapped the wrapped sufficiently to insert the gin. We couldn't find our duct tape so envision our suitcase being passed onto the plane, transferring at LHR, and off-loaded at YVR with an ever-increasing tail of cello-wrap.

We're greatly disappointed - actually put off - by SAA's Baobab Lounge. Perhaps it's wonderful at the right time. We had trouble finding a place to sit, power outlets are virtually non-existent, and several uncontrolled children were running around, playing hide-and-seek, and in one instance throwing a minor tantrum (a lad about nine!) made things annoying (and we're usually ardent defenders of traveling children and their elders).

We finally found a place in the "audio-visual lounge," which is actually quieter and cooler than much of the rest of the lounge.  Kathy sat in an available chair and very nearly fell over; it was broken.

Brian reported that to the front counter and it turned into a laughable experience. First, he was invited to fill out a complaint form. When he explained he was doing this as a service to others, the employee said they would.

As he started to return to Kathy, another employee rushed up and said he was being paged. It turned out that this employee was supposed to follow Brian and misunderstood. Finally, Brian escorted the employee to the broken lounge chair (which he had previously turned upside down) and made the employee understand it was broken.

The Men's room is being repaired and the shower room facilities being offered are less than optimum - still enough kleenex makes a half-decent paper towel.

France would have been easier - and French Internet service might well be better too.

We're now relaxing and charging up our devices. We board in about 20 minutes and our next stop is LHR somewhere around 6:00 a.m. London time.

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