The lighter side of travel

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Airports. Love them or hate them, they’re as much a part of the travel experience as the trip itself. And while we all hope for an uneventful passage through the airport, this is not always the case. Samantha Du Chenne speaks to two people, whose airport experiences were somewhat more eventful than usual.

Tessa Manley, a sales consultant from Cape Town, was thrilled to be on her fi rst trip to Paris. It had always been her dream to visit the city and she had brushed up on her schoolgirl French accordingly. After almost 24 hours in transit, Manley was feeling exhausted and irritable. She had missed an earlier flight which had, in turn, made her late for a connecting flight – and to top it all it was Christmas Eve. “On finally landing in Paris, I raced to the luggage carousel, having only 10 minutes in which to catch the TGV. When the luggage did not arrive, I had no choice but to move on and find the TGV terminal, with the thought of a week without clean clothing or toiletries on my mind.”

Things looked brighter for Manley when she was addressed (in French) by the airport security guard. Finally, she would have the opportunity to show off her French. She replied to his enquiry as to where she learnt to speak French with an explanation that she had rehearsed over and over again: she had learnt at school and continued to study the language at university and in anticipation of her trip to Paris, had even taken some extra classes. “I was most embarrassed when the guard responded (in English and rather brusquely) that he had, in fact asked if I had travelled Air France,” she recalls. “It was the final straw on top of a rather exhausting and frustrating journey.” Gabrielle Mason had a close call on her honeymoon when she and her new husband almost missed their fl ight to Bangkok, on the way back from the island of KoSamui.

“When we arrived at the island airport, it seemed even more laid back and tranquil than it had when we got to the island. In fact, there was not a soul to be seen.” On further investigation, the Masons found the check-in point was not manned and the airport seemed empty. “We walked a little further on and eventually found the entire airport staff complement, as well as other passers-by congregated at the far end of the airport. As we passed, someone hissed that Westerners should kneel down. We were told that the Princess of Thailand was expected to arrive at the airport shortly, and that everyone was expected to wait to greet her,” Mason explained. This meant that no luggage could be checked in and no planes were leaving the airport until the Princess had disembarked from her own plane and left the building. “The fact that we needed to catch a connecting flight to Bangkok, and from there back to South Africa, did not seem to be of concern to anyone,” laughed Mason. With no other option, the couple knelt down and waited almost an hour for the

Thai princess to arrive, which she did in due course, with much ceremony. Once her convoy had left the airport, it was business as usual. “We got to Bangkok on time and caught our fl ight back home. It taught us a lot about patience; sometimes there is no solution other than to stop and appreciate the situation you’re in,” she says. I could go on. Almost everyone you ask has had some sort of airport adventure. And when you look back on it, would our travels really be the same without them?