Today I went for lunch with someone I had just met a few days previously and as always happens we got to talking about traveling, but this time instead of talking about destinations we talked about methods of transport. I started retelling different experiences I’d had on planes and it dawned on me that I have a LOT of extreme plane and airport stories!!
Here (in no particular order) I leave you with what I believe are probably my most extreme ones.
1- The time I flew for 2 hours through a massive thunderstorm. As in, first my flight from Johannesburg to Maputo was delayed because a HUGE thunderstorm was happening and the plane couldn’t take off, and then when we did board and take off we flew through the storm…. if any of you have experienced serious turbulence or an extremely strong earthquake now imagine 2 hours of it! Yeah, two full hours because after the mandatory short 50 min flight from JNB to MPT the plane couldn’t land in Maputo because the storm was wreaking havoc in that airport which meant we had to fly back to JNB through the storm!! I ask you, shouldn’t the meteorologist have known the storm had moved to Maputo and simply stopped the flight from happening altogether?
2- The time the plane’s engine stopped mid-flight. Perhaps 5 or 10 minutes had passed since we had taken off from Maputo towards Vilankulos when suddenly the plane shook (as in bad turbulence but not exactly) and we started hearing this sound evocative of someone trying to start an engine but failing… and no announcements by the pilot or any flight attendant in sight… besides the sound of the engine failing the plane was eerily silent, all the passengers sat quietly looking at other passengers with a look that said “wtf is happening?” We suddenly felt the plane turning and from the window we could see we were heading back… We finally landed back and only then the pilot told us they had experienced engine problems (as if we hadn’t noticed!). I assume he was too busy trying to land us with only one engine running so can’t really blame him for not making an announcement earlier.
3- The time the whole aviation industry flexed their muscles for me (at least that’s what it felt like). It all started when after boarding my flight from Chile to Sao Paulo we were all asked to step down because there was a problem with the plane. I was flying to Mozambique so missing the first flight could be tragic for all my connections! The airline was very apologetic and promised me it would all be alright. What followed was that they immediately placed me on another flight going to Buenos Aires (from there I would make a connection to Sao Paulo that would supposedly arrive just in time to board my scheduled flight to South Africa). Moments before landing in Buenos Aires I heard my name on the loudspeaker, the pilot was basically telling all passengers to remain seated until I got off the plane because I had to make a tight connection and couldn’t stand around in the corridor!! I was then met by someone at the door of the plane who rushed me across the airport and boarded me on the flight to Sao Paulo. Sans boarding pass or doing any sort of official paperwork. AND the flight to Sao Paulo was all set to go just waiting for me!! As in, seriously they were just waiting for me to board so they could take off!!
On arrival in Sao Paulo it was almost the same experience, someone met me at the door of the plane and rushed me across to the other end of the terminal (or was it to a different terminal?) so I could take my other flight. From then on, it was all smooth sailing, no more hiccups. We landed in JNB as planned, I took my next connection just as scheduled and made it home to Mozambique intact… well minus the baggage which only arrived 2 weeks later!!
I have to admit that having people meet you and rush you across without having to bother about boarding passes and all made me feel very very VIP. Oh, yeah , and I have to thank the airline (LAN) for doing an outstanding job at making sure I made all the connections necessary.
4- The time I had a boarding pass where I was assigned sit “68 A” only to find the plane only has 67 rows… yeah… surreal, even the flight attendants were mystified… they called to confirm the boarding pass, nobody knew what had happened and they eventually blamed the computers. Luckily for me there were still two empty seats on the flight so they just told me to choose one.
Despite all of these I still love flying. The way I see it flying is still the safest mode of transport (at least statistically) but that doesn’t mean nothing will happen! Plus, the experiences make for particularly amazing anecdotes – my lunch today might have been boring if not for these. Oh, and I still have a few more stories for another lunch date… What about you? Any surreal or scary flight misadventure to share ?