I sit and write this from one of my favourite places in Kathmandu: a four-storey house that is situated on the exact approach line of every airplane that comes in to land at the Tribhuvan International airport. The airstrip is a few of kilometers in front of me and I can see when the airplane touches the ground. When they fly over me their landing gear is already out and it’s fun to first guess and then read which airline it is coming in to land. Kathmandu’s airport is not Heathrow, but enough planes come in to make it exciting. Obviously this creates amazing photo opportunities as well.
We have been here for three weeks but it seems much longer. Having our luggage misplaced also seems like a distant memory, but let me start at the beginning. When we arrived at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, we still had some outstanding chores; quite normal for us. So we visited the bank and then proceeded to the check-in counters. We wanted to spend some time with my sister, who had come to say goodbye. Afterwards, we still had to stop by the Cape Union Mart in Duty Free to buy my trekking shoes. They were holding me a pair, but that’s a totally different story. We were looking forward to the flight, as always. We enjoy having a “movie date” every time we fly, and especially since the flight was scheduled on the 17th anniversary of the day we met. We always look forward to discover what the in-flight menu will be. My angel enjoys every flight like a little girl.
As we approached the check-in counter, another passenger asked me if we were here for the Emirates flight. I acknowledged that we were, then to my utter shock he said our flight was cancelled. I truly thought he was joking , but to our horror I quickly saw the queue of people trying to get onto the next available flight. We had not heard about the incident the previous day when a plane had made an emergency landing in Dubai and then burst into flames on the runway, mercifully with no loss of life.
So our original flight plan was Johannesburg to Dubai with a 17 hours layover, and then onward to Kathmandu. We thought of either going into Dubai or laying low in the lounge. This was clearly not going to happen. I must congratulate the two ladies assisting hundreds of passengers who needed to get to their destinations. These ladies kept their calm even when things got heated. My only criticism was that nobody informed us about the situation, as this was already one day after the accident had happened.
So we were rebooked on a flight with Qatar and then had to catch a Flydubai flight to Dubai in order to catch our original flight to Kathmandu. If this sounds complicated to you, imagine how complicated it turned out for the people handling our luggage. Our luggage did not “board” our second flight, and the lady at the gate said we could board the flight without our luggage or stay behind and try to find it. We decided to fly anyway and then try to sort out the problem in Dubai, as staying put would surely result in a myriad other problems, like paying for new tickets and having interesting discussions with immigration officials. We were not prepared for the chaos in Dubai. There was no way that anybody could help us with our luggage and the everyone from our travel agent at Flight Centre to staff members of Flydubai and Emirates just kept saying, “Don't worry, your luggage will be waiting for you in Kathmandu.” Obviously that never happened. It took us two days and two trips to the airport, filing two complaints before we got to see our luggage again. Then I forgot the pink slip, and they refused to release it to me, which cost a third trip to get the slip. One thing I can assure you, is that getting it back still wrapped and intact made all the effort worth the while.
We love flying with Emirates and will continue doing so, but our experience in Dubai was less than pleasant. Flight Centre told us when we booked our tickets that if our stopover in Dubai was longer than 12 hours, we could ask for meal vouchers as this is their policy. Between trying to locate our luggage and asking for meal vouchers, we felt like beggars while trying to get what was rightfully ours. I was about to give up on everything when a staff member of Emirates at last issued us each a meal voucher. We will not hold this one against Emirates, but rather write it off as a bad experience, and one we can look back on with a smile, knowing everything ended well in the end.
At last, after it all, we are safely in Kathmandu. We’ve unpacked the suitcases and stashed them in a corner, and we have settled for a few months. Like the hotel owner from Best Exotic Marigold Hotel said: “Everything will alright in the end. And if it’s not alright, it’s not yet the end.”