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Airport drama # 1- “The plane is closing!”

Aug 7 • 5539 views • 21 Comments on Airport drama # 1- “The plane is closing!” Uganda

If I’m honest, I’ve lived on ‘African time’ before I lived in Africa… but even when I make a timely plan, something seems to crop up that delays me. ‘African time’ and international flight departures do not mix.  This is just one of the muzungu’s series of airport dramas! This one took place at Entebbe International Airport, Uganda.

Entebbe International Airport Uganda sunset

Such a wonderful parting view of Lake Victoria, visible on the horizon. Sunset at Entebbe International Airport Uganda

This time I thought I was prepared.

I was at the airport on time.

I had looked at the Emirates website but could not work out how much I would be charged for the additional luggage I was taking home for a friend. I had therefore guessed I would just pay an extra $50 per bag (the amount I’ve paid with other airlines). All I saw was a note on their web site saying that because the connecting flight was provided by a third party, I would have to take the bags to the airport and pay the excess baggage fee there.

At Entebbe International Airport, a man called Ken very helpfully shrink-wrapped my four bags into just three. (I thought this would be a good ploy for outwitting the system, and hoped that I would just be charged for three excess bags not four).

I was rather pleased with myself.

bag wrapping machine airport

This is not Ken and this is not Entebbe! – but it definitely is a bag wrapping machine, highly recommended if you’re changing flights or have canvas or other ‘low security’ bags. Image courtesy

At the check-in desk, I somehow lifted the bags onto the weighing scale. They registered a total of 44 kg.

“That will be $960 please Madam.”

“What?!” I blurted out.

$960? She even said it with a straight face.

“You must be joking!” I slammed back at her. “I don’t have that kind of money, so what am I supposed to do?”

She was totally unhelpful.

I tried to bargain with her but she said once it had registered on the system, there was no negotiation. I searched her face for an answer.

“You can just give it away or throw it,” she said.

And then I saw red.

I had been willing to pay one hundred dollars or so for extra baggage but after the way she talked to me, I decided I wasn’t going to give the airline a single extra dollar.

“The plane is closing!” Shouted one of the airport staff. So much for my normal view that ‘Ugandans are so friendly’, these two ladies and a gentlemen were particularly unhelpful.

“I tried to pay for the excess baggage online but there was no information!” I shouted back at them.

I then proceeded to claw apart my beautifully shrink-wrapped bags.

Voyager Bar 2016 Entebbe International Airport Uganda

Passengers watching planes land from the new-look Voyager Bar 2016 Entebbe International Airport

Voyager Bar runway Entebbe International Airport Uganda

View of the runway from the new-look Voyager Bar at Entebbe International Airport Uganda. Check out Lake Victoria in the distance

runway Entebbe International Airport Uganda

RwandAir plane on the runway Entebbe International Airport Uganda. View from the ‘now rather swanky’ Voyager Bar

In a panic, I ran over to Ken and begged for his help. He obliged with a razor blade and delicately sliced through our 20 minutes of wrapping. (I just hoped he wasn’t going to slice straight through the canvas material of the bag as well!)

What to take with me? What to leave behind?

I broke out into a sweat as I tried to quickly decide what to leave and what to take with me. My friend had paid for my air ticket; I couldn’t leave his stuff behind. But what was I going to wear for my three weeks away if I just took his stuff?

“I can’t afford to miss another plane. My family will never let me live it down!” I thought to myself.

Knickers and bras flew left and right, much to the hilarity of the staff, as I panicked my way through my bags. (What a great time for them to regain their sense of humour – at the Muzungu’s expense…) Isn’t it funny how I didn’t laugh with them?

My driver wasn’t picking my call; he had gone to attend a burial. There was no way I could speak to him and arrange for him to come back and collect my stuff before I got onto the plane and switched my phone off.

Decisions, decisions…

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Suitcase..."

A story for another day… “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Suitcase…”

“Ken,” I asked him, “can I trust you?”

There was nothing else to do but to trust this guy. I certainly wasn’t going to ditch my stuff in the airport for the unhelpful staff to take home.

I handed over a 20,000 Uganda shilling note – and two bags full of my personal belongings and my friend’s expensive whiskey – with phone numbers of a couple of friends who I hoped would follow up for me.

As I rushed towards the plane, Ken came running after me to check I had written the phone numbers down correctly. He seemed honest enough.

… And then I sat on the plane twiddling my thumbs for half an hour! (All the time worrying what I had left behind, and whether I would see any of it ever again)

The long-term effect of the momentary madness at Entebbe was felt throughout my trip: I was to realise 24 hours later that, in the pandemonium, I had left behind my phone recharger and my laptop recharger.

A big thank you to Honest Ken. He helped me in my hour of need and everything was still in my bag when my driver picked it up from Entebbe the next day!

aerial view of Entebbe Uganda

aerial view of Entebbe Uganda. Coming into land

Taking off from Entebbe International Airport Uganda with Aerolink

Taking off from Entebbe International Airport, Uganda. Heading to Kisoro with Aerolink on an earlier adventure …

Entebbe Airport building 1955

The original Entebbe Airport building, 1955. The building is intact and being renovated to welcome tourists, to commemorate the Israeli Entebbe Raid of July 1976

If you enjoyed the image of the Muzungu panicking, write me a comment below. Airport drama # 2 is not far behind!

Have you seen my aerial photos of Lake Victoria and Kisoro? Taken on board domestic flights with Aerolink.

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21 Responses to Airport drama # 1- “The plane is closing!”

  1. Lizziema says:

    Yes it is true she would not live down another missed flight the darling girl!

  2. Alison says:

    Being stereotypical English, I’m always half an hour early for everything! Goodness knows how it works with a Ugandan boyfriend who is on African time plus whatever he fancies! . Always entertaining when I have to leave to come back to UK. My usual statement of the day is DON’T MAKE ME LATE, repeated at regular intervals!

    I feel your pain and thank goodness that Ken kept his word 🙂

    • the muzungu says:

      At least you have a Ugandan boyfriend you can blame for any ‘African time-keeping’! Yes, Ken the shrinkwrap man was a good guy in an emergency – I called him up to thank him when I arrived back in UG 🙂

  3. Derek Simbwa says:

    I didnt know that many people were facing the same problem I faced at the airport until you put the last nail in the wood. A friend in Belgium paid my airticket and wanted me to take him certain things. I ended up removing my clothes from the one bag that I had to give room for his goods. Lucky enough, he and me are almost the same sizes so didnt feel offended slipping into his rather tight clothing for the one month I was in Brussels

    • the muzungu says:

      Ha ha Derek, that’s too funny! I guess it means you could not overeat on your holiday 🙂
      Luckily I was staying with my mum and dad so they always have stuff I can borrow… and my dad bought me a replacement phone recharger. Cost £22!!! UK prices, eh banange!

  4. Vishvala says:

    From an ex-Muindi from Uganda…all airlines are the same world over. I have vowed to put on 4 layers of clothes for my next trip! Many congratulations for finding trustful Ken.

    • the muzungu says:

      Now that is GREAT tip! [But then where do you conceal the Nile Perch?]
      … And I’m not singling out Emirates necessarily – the flights were perfect – but the excess charge? And the inability to estimate it in advance? That was very annoying

  5. Melanie Nikschat says:

    Hello Charlotte,

    you have been traveling with Emirates, right?
    They have really become strict with their luggage. I have experienced that in Germany, going to Entebbe.
    They charge 55 € per kg. And bargaining really does not help, I know. I will go to Germany in December. So if anything has to be taken this way, just let me know.


    • the muzungu says:

      Hi Melanie, nice to hear from you. Yes I was travelling with Emirates. I could not believe how much they charge per extra kilo. I looked all over their website for information on extra baggage but it was not there because I had to change flights. One leg of the trip was a Quantas plane. Apparently the policy is that Emirates can’t tell you how much it will be for extra luggage as they don’t always know who the carrier will be. My friend had paid for my ticket back to the UK expressly so I could take some of his belongings home for him. I then had to dump half of them at the airport! It was highly embarrassing. When I paid for extra luggage in the past, I have paid $50 or $100. (I think I had three extra bags). To take the extra 14 kg would have cost my friend several hundred dollars. No, there is no way you can bargain. The staff were not at all sympathetic.
      Thanks for your offer to take stuff back to Europe for me. Hope you’re keeping well!

  6. Elisha says:

    Hi Muzungu,
    Travel light is the best way, particularly if travelling abroad. Two reasons come to mind: You should avoid the stress of losing or leaving behind a baggage and yet you stand a good chance to carry some stuff on your return.


    • the muzungu says:

      Hi Elisha, thanks for the tips. You’re right – don’t pack too much on your outward journey then you can fill up your bag with souvenirs et cetera:)
      I seem to remember on our trip you carried just a notebook, when the rest of us were burdened with cameras, video cameras, binoculars and guidebooks!

  7. Daniel says:

    The airline staff didn’t realise you are a Ugandan Muzungu. They had started sharing out your stuff in their minds. An airline ploy the world


  8. Paul says:

    It is so funny how these guys in certain offices seem so inhuman and unhelpful. Many of us lack the sens of communication which costs us nothing but rather may be our carriers. What we are trained in customer service we leave them in book. But anyway thanks to Ken He deserves the best.

  9. Hello Nagawa, i am glad to hear Ken was very helpful despite the others not giving in their best. However i have learnt a few things from your drama, thanks for sharing. Cheers!

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