Precision Air Mark I.
As usual we all mill around the luggage conveyor belt as it creaks into action, and the first bags start coming around. The first bags get grabbed up quickly, then… nothing. After a couple of minutes of nothing, a guy sticks his head through the opening next to the luggage pick up and very quietly he says “thats all there is, we left the rest on the tarmac in Nairobi, go see the office” and ducks out again with a brief wave at an office on the other side of the room. He is so quiet that not many people have heard, and those that have are all looking at each other questioningly, seeking reassurance that we haven’t just heard that. Then, as it dawns on us that he did indeed say that, we sprint for the lost luggage office on the other side of the room.
For about 20 minutes we queue at a closed window in Kilimanjaro Airport, until a staff member appears. He bravely stands on a chair to talk to the crowd. “We had to leave 88 bags on the tarmac in Nairobi, because the flight was too full, the plane was too heavy” he starts, to the sound of hope expiring from about 70 people. “There are no more flights tonight, but your bags will come on the flights tomorrow and will be delivered to you. Please line up here so that we can take the reports of your lost luggage and get them back to you tomorrow”. Pandemonium breaks out as he ducks into the office and shuts the door, reappearing at the window.
At this point we discover that he has to take the lost luggage reports from us one by one, and that only he could fill the form in, we are not allowed to fill it in ourselves. This is going to take a while – 45 minutes to be exact, and I am only the fifth person in the queue. The fun part is trying to point at the picture that looks the “most like” my missing luggage from a large laminated poster that obviously gets frequent use. We are also asked to list the contents of our lost bags, at which point I am glad I have no valuables in it, it feels like we are giving some-one a target list! None of us believe we are going to see our belongings the next day, if at all, based on some sound crowd reasoning:
- Our bags are in Nairobi, not known as “nairobbery “for nothing
- Tomorrow’s planes will be full as well, so to fit our bags on (almost a plane load in themselves) they will have to leave the next load of passengers bags behind and so on, repeating it for every flight – who would choose to compound the problem like that.
- Just about every one on the flight is only staying overnight in Arusha before heading off first thing in the morning – for their safari, for their climb of Kilimanjaro, or in my case to join my voluntourism group doing renovations to a school. The bags will never catch up with us.
I take stock – in my day pack I have my camera, my passport, my money. But I don’t have any change of clothes, I have no malaria tablets, and I have no sleeping bag or camp mat – this is not going to be comfortable, but it can be done! At least there is comfort in numbers, another four people going on the same trip are on the same flight and have no bags either.
Precision Air Mark II
Having convinced ourselves we will never see them again, our bags arrive the next morning, on the same flight bringing the last remaining people for our tour group. However, their bags do not arrive. Ahh – the airline decided to go for the knock on effect after all! Those bags arrive a couple of days later and do get delivered out to our campsite some hours away. However one lady finds her hiking boots and camera have been stolen out of her locked pack.
Precision Air Mark III
I am flying Precision Air again from Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar. I carry on three large pieces of hand luggage with almost all my belongings stuffed in them, and check in an empty pack. I am sitting next to a very well groomed local businessman. I notice that all the flight crew are coming up to greet him, as are the other local business men on the flight. I ask him “Are you famous, everyone seems to know you?” He chuckles and says” No, not famous, I am just a businessman”. He hesitates for a second and adds “and I started this airline, my name is ***”. “Hi, I’m Vicki”, I reply. He then introduces me to the Tanzanian Finance Minister who has just come up to greet him. I sit there thinking that all our bags are probably going to turn up when we get off this flight. I am right, not a single missing bag.
Precision Air Mark IV
A number of us had independently decided to head to Zanzibar after our Tanzania trip, and a couple of days later we got together in Stonetown for a fun cocktail-fuelled reunion. The four women who had also been on my first flight, and had also lost their bags, had just flown in that afternoon. Three of them had done what I did, carrying huge amounts of carry on baggage. One didn’t. Their checked on bags didn’t arrive.