On the road…again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Anecdotes About Flying
Part I – Booking and Boarding
Bits and pieces, flashes of the past, a jogged memory or two….all amount to mere snippets of a story. So, instead of one continuous story, this chronicle offers up a bulletized version of memories past; On the road…again! and into the air….again!
You arrive at the airport with a confirmed reservation for two from Agana, Guam back to Saigon…but somebody in the back room makes a deal for your seats. You even gain permission to go into the back room where the ticket agent is standing there talking with three adults, probably the ones who bribed him for the seats. But nobody is saying anything, and you have to return to town and wait for another 12 days before there is space available.
A favorite plane on the short flights in Europe
You confirm your reservation at the Transportes Aereos de Cabo Verde (TACV) ticket office in town the day before your flight. The following day, and before the shuttle for the airport departs, you confirm again inside the same office. The shuttle van is just outside and you can see it through the window. When you get to the airport, the TACV staff member tells you that your name is not on the flight manifest. You ask to see the hand-written manifest. She shows it to you. You point out your name on the list. Your name has been scratched off. Did one of her friends show up late and ask for a seat?
The people of Cape Verde are friendly and honest; and there is little or no corruption. But scratching your name off the manifest may not have seemed to them as being dishonest…it might have been perceived as doing a favor for a friend. But it happened more than once, so that is why you always check.
You confirm your reservations on Air Afrique the day before you fly out of Dakar, Senegal, bound for Paris. When you get to the airport early the following day, the ticket agent at the counter says that you and your wife are not on his flight list. His computer screen faces away from you and is behind the counter, so you have no way to check it for yourself. This ticket agent is corrupt, and you know it. After a few minutes, he tells you that he can assure you seats—for a price. The cost? Fifteen dollars-US. When you object because you know that you already have confirmed reservations, he toughens his stance. “Look”, he says tauntingly, “if I give you the confirmations (for the flight later that evening) it will only cost you $15. If I don’t give it to you, you have to go back into town and spend $50-75 for a night in a hotel.”
Air Afrique and TACV both flew between Dakar and Praia
Later that evening, that same corrupt Air Afrique ticket agent shows up at the departure lounge with a handful of boarding passes; and goes through the crowd holding the boarding passes in his raised left hand. As he makes eye contact with his other marks, you notice that he extends his hand to them….a boarding pass in exchange for what is in their hand. He continues looking for his other marks. The gullible and the desperate alike are ready with his payoff in their hands. The Footloose Forester remembers seeing 3-4 payoffs before the corrupt agent got to him. Here is your boarding pass; he eyes seemed to be saying as he approaches and your hand goes out toward his. He doesn't even bother to count it.
The expatriates who lived in West Africa knew that there were some corrupt agents at Air Afrique, but we were not always victimized. If you took the pains to get the confirmations early enough, they usually conceded that they could not hoodwink you. Other expats, therefore, took the pains to secure their flights, by various means.