I still have this child-like wonder when it comes to long-distance air travel. Even though I’ve done an awful lot of it (especially in the last 10 years) it still blows me away that it’s possible to be in one part of the world one day, and a completely different part of it the next. I mean, I’m sitting in my living room in southern Sweden right now even though I was in Tanzania at this time yesterday. How amazing is that?
Slightly less amazing is the fact that our backpacks are probably still in Africa. Despite being assured by two different people at our safari agency that the 50-minute layover in Nairobi was “plenty of time” for us and our checked luggage to make the flight to Doha, there was absolutely ZERO room for anything to go wrong. So when two separate attempts to check-in online failed (both the day before and the day of the flight) and departure from Kilimanjaro International was 30 minutes late, there was serious doubt that Dr. Darling and I would make the connection, let alone our checked luggage.
Needless to say this made for a very stressful start to our homeward journey. We didn’t have visas for Kenya, so getting stuck in Nairobi would mean being confined to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), which is neither large nor very comfortable for a lengthy stranding (despite the free wifi throughout). And unlike the flight TO Kilimanjaro International, this one was packed and we were seated about as far as we could possibly be from the exit.
Adding insult to injury was the kid in the seat in front of me who dumped his drink, which spilled all over one of my shoes and carry-on, which I had intentionally placed “under the seat in front of me” in order to speed our exit from the aircraft. Of course my favorite baseball cap was attached to the carry-on and was also fulled with orange soda. FUN. A member of the flight crew very kindly found us separate seats a little closer to the exit before we landed, but then proceeded to spill a drink on Dr. Darling after moving her to an aisle seat. At this point there was really nothing we could do but laugh.
After wasting precious minutes in line at the *wrong* transfer desk (no one had bothered to tell us there were two of them) and then being assigned seats in different parts of the plane, we were literally sprinting toward the wrong gate (thanks to another bit of misinformation provided by the lady at the correct transfer desk) when someone called out, “Doha passengers?!” At least the gate team was looking out for us.
Once onboard the Doha flight we discovered that the woman seated on my left was travelling alone and was willing to trade her aisle seat for the Swede’s aisle seat, which was about nine rows further back. Things were looking up. Still, we were 99% sure our bags were not going to be coming with us, and it turns out we were right despite being told later by the check-in staff in Doha that our bags were onboard the final flight to Copenhagen.
At that point we were just grateful that our seats were in the same row. Despite our tickets having been purchased as part of a single booking, we were not seated together on 3 of the 4 Qatar Air flights. This time there was an aisle in between us and the guy on Dr. Darling‘s right was understandably not willing to give up his window seat for the six-our overnight flight. (Unlike us, he was able to check in online, the lucky sod.)
During the course of chatting with some of the passengers around us (Danes, mainly), we learned that there were multiple groups of travellers and families that were seemingly randomly scattered throughout the plane and not very happy about it. We surmised that Qatar Air must rely on some kind of a dart board or roulette wheel for determining seating assignments. Still, at that moment we actually believed our bags were onboard, too, and we were still SO relieved to not be stranded in Nairobi that it was tough to stew about sitting across the aisle from each other.
But when we got to Copenhagen, there was no sign of our bags, so we filed a report with Arrival Services and are waiting to hear from them. On the upside, not carrying our big backpacks made for a really easy trip home from the airport. ;^)