Once upon a time during the Gung-ho days of rat race and climbing the corporate ladder, the powers that be in England decided the location of our annual convention to be Mombasa - an hour flight from Kenya's capital Nairobi.
The big boss had either ran out of venues or had not been to the African Safari, I thought. We did have an office in Capetown*, but not in East Africa, so what other reason could there be for transporting his team three- quarter way around the world.
*(Sadly our colleague from South Africa was not allowed to attend the meeting - it was at the height of apartheid then).
As the only attendee from the Far East to these meetings I was excited at the prospect of seeing a giraffe in person. The problem however was how to get from this end of the world to the other.
My good secretary came out with the splendid (to her anyway) idea of making me fly to London, then to Nairobi. Knowing that any other alternative would be just as long a haul, I approved.
Seventy two hours after I left KL I was finally on my way to Mombasa. Thankfully I was joined by my European colleagues for the London-Nairobi leg, so the flight was not so boring. It was not so quiet either. That, of course is an understatement.
When we finally landed and disembarked in Mombasa, we were met at the foot of the airplane steps by a couple of ground crews who came, not to greet us, but to hand out the landing cards!
There we were in the sweltering ninety degree heat of Mombasa and a few more added degrees from the tarmac, squatting, placing the forms on our knees and filling them up, with the ground crews standing guard as if we were refugees. It was a windy day as well, and some papers flew off the hands of those who didn't hold their cards tight enough. Seeing them chase after the papers which took off like kites was a funny sight - of course it didn't seem funny then.
A long walk to the immigration and customs after that was uneventful except for our amusement at the sight of our big bosses' fins right at the top of their luggages as they were opened for inspection. Obviously they came prepared for a dip.
I shall leave the details of our adventure in beautiful Kenya, its Safari, the people I met and the Swahili I learned (and did I tell you we were having a meeting too?) for another day.
The return flight provided more thrills:
Kenyan Airways then flew airplanes leased from British Midland, and later KLM and Lufthansa. Apart from the pilot and co-pilot all other crew members were Africans.
After all the passengers were seated the plane was ready to take off. We were all excited and anxious to go home, after almost a fortnight away from the family.
"This is the Captain speaking. We are about to take off. Cabin crew please arm all doors". The stern voice came over the loudspeaker.
"Please arm all doors". (We had a feeling at this point that the indicator light in the cockpit hadn't gone off).
Silence. Only the drumming of the engine could be heard. The plane hadn't moved.
A minute later: "I SAID LOCK ALL DOORS!"
The next moment the Captain was seen leaving the cockpit to double-check for himself that all doors were indeed secured.
We were glad to be on our way. That was the only time I decided not to make a London stopover as I normally did whenever I had a chance. I just wanted to be home, pronto.
Note: Kenya Airways underwent a number of restructuring since that episode and had made great progress. In March 2006, Kenya Airways won the "African Airline of the Year" award for 2005, for the fifth time in seven years.:22 Passenger numbers in the year 2006 (April 2006 – March 2007) was a record high of 2.6 million. On September 4, 2007, SkyTeam, the second-largest airline alliance in the world, welcomed Kenya Airways as one of the first official SkyTeam Associate Airlines. Wikipedia
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