After almost a week in Cape Town, attending sessions of the World Economic Forum and running between meetings, I was looking forward to the relative calm of Johannesburg. And that’s even before mentioning the protests that became a feature of the event.
Except that I almost didn’t make it back. I’m probably far from being a prolific traveller, at least compared to most readers of this magazine. That may explain my rookie error, which almost extended my stay in the Mother City.
I was so eager to come back to Johannesburg and attend the RMB Starlight Classics Concert later that night that I actually arrived at the airport with a lot of time to spare. Being environmentally aware, or at least trying to be, I have long since stopped carrying printouts of my tickets.
Normally I check in online, simply keep the details on my phone and pray the battery doesn’t die. This time I wasn’t even that careful. All I had to go on was a little glimpse of the original e-mail confirming the bookings, and my memory.
So I queued at Cape Town airport, waiting for my 3.05pm flight to OR Tambo International. I eventually got to the front and discovered there was no flight to OR Tambo at that time and the next one was at around 5pm.
Resigned to spending another three hours at the airport and letting down my friend who was due to go to the concert with me, I thought I’d check my bag in and have a relaxing rest of the afternoon reading The Sunday Times. When last had I read the paper back to front?
To my horror, I realised, after the computer had failed to recognise my name, that what I had got wrong was not the flight time, but the airline. By this time it was already way past 2.05pm, and I was in a state of panic. I couldn’t exactly queue at all the different airline counters until I found the correct one.
Seasoned business travellers would know better than to assume both legs of their flight were with the same airline
The search function on my email is terrible at the best of times. I located a booking, but it only had hotel vouchers, no flights. Eventually I found it, though I was convinced that by then it was too late. I contemplated the annoyance, never mind the expense, of buying another ticket. Cape Town is beautiful, but by then I’d had enough and just wanted to be back in Gauteng.
I suppose seasoned business travellers would know better than to assume both legs of their flight were with the same airline. If that is something you haven’t thought about before, when someone else makes your booking arrangements, it’s best to be more diligent than I was and check who you are supposed to be flying with — both ways.
Miraculously, I made my SAA flight, which left on time, and with some skilful Ubering, we were at the Johannesburg Country Club just before the first act went on stage.
And what a concert it was. The sounds and colours a perfect antidote to what had been a terrible week for the country.
• Mnyanda is the editor of Business Day.
• From the October edition of Wanted 2019.