Monday, March 31, 2008

The joys of Lungi airport...tips if you're stranded...

12 hours in Lungi airport can seem to drag on forever but actually it can be amusing and educational. Let me give you an accuont of the 12 hours I spent there...

4pm Arrive at airport. Hope to check in for 8pm flight. Hear flight is delayed 5 hours. Told to add my suitcase to the long line of baggage, “I’ll watch it”, one of the Sierra Leoneans says. “Sure you will I think”, as I sit down within 2 meters of my suitcase. Glad to be joined by an MSF lady. Chat about working in Africa.

425pm I find out that the plane hasn’t left Brussels. Not a good sign. Another passenger is on the phone with friends in Brussels, who are supposed to be on the flight coming to Freetown. They are still on the ground. A de-icing truck hit one of the wings. Extent of damage? Who knows. What to do? Read. People watch. Send text messages.

5pm Good news. Plane left Brussels. New departure time 130am. Still waiting. Keeping an eye on my suitcase. Chatting with MSF lady.

6pm Check-in. At least there’s some movement. My luggage doesn’t need to be opened because the guy recognizes me as his daughter’s doctor. Nice. Receive a voucher for a meal worth Le 40,000. Also nice.

630pm Sitting upstairs in waiting hall. With MSF lady, business man and EU man. Had a lovely dinner- after convincing the waiter we really did want the meal worth 37,000 Leones and not the ‘cheap’ hamburger he was trying to get us to order. We wanted to spend our voucher on a big meal, not have him pocket half of the money. Nice try though. Made some calls. Continued discussions. Still waiting.

1030pm Bored in waiting hall. Decide to sneak into business lounge. No problem. Lady sitting by door is sleeping. Finally, comfortable chairs. Hear plane will go to Dakar first, then come to Freetown. Means we can go straight to Brussels. But plane not in Dakar yet. Still waiting.

Midnight No news. Hungry. MSF lady, business man, EU man and myself decide to do some investigating. With passport & boarding pass in hand we go downstairs, in reverse through the deserted security check, through immigrations where the officer is sound asleep, through the check-in area and out to where the offices are. Poor airline manager. He can’t have been too happy to see us. But he handled us well. We heard the flight was to land in Dakar in 9 minutes. Good news. We also managed to convince him that we really did need some more free food. Chicken sandwiches anyone???

1230am Enjoying sandwiches. Decide to go back to business lounge, where we all left our hand luggage unattended. Only at Lungi airport, after waiting for 8 hours with the same people would I do that.

3am Plane arrives. Still waiting… but with more hope.

4am Boarding. Finally. Within 15 minutes we take off. I have a window seat and no one next to me. Bliss. By this time I had been traveling for 16 hours, of which 12 hours were at Lungi…

The moral of the story is that you too can survive reasonably at Lungi airport if you keep in mind the following: make sure you get the most out of your meal voucher, sneak into the business lounge, don’t worry about hand luggage too much, sneak back through immigrations to get to the airline office to ask for more free food, make sure you have enough credit on your phone, meet some interesting people who also have nothing better to do than sit and chat, be thankful that the flight is only delayed and not cancelled.

2 comments:

Faye Yu said...

Hope you have a good vacation and the trip back will not be as eventful.

Justin Wallace said...

that's AWESOME!!! You got free food? No fair. :)

I'm glad you made it home safely. And that you are getting to see people. That is cool. I'm back to Salone on Tuesday. I am soooooo ready to get back to my own house, with my friends, kids, etc. I'm not built for these long vacations, I get too restless. I hope you have a good time!!! Write me. Oh yeah, and check out my pictures. I like em :)

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~