Stuck in transit, and going nowhere fast

2010-04-20 00:00

The international airline shutdown is inconveniencing South Africans stuck in Europe and those needing to get to Europe, after their holidays or on sport or business. REMY RAITT spoke to some of them.

ANDREA Wegele and Christopher Kracke, who are both 21, have had to spend double the price of their original airfare to ensure they make it back to Munich where their university term has begun.

“We are lucky our parents are laying out the money for a flight to Madrid, where we will then catch a train back to Germany,” said Kracke.

The two have also been fortunate with accommodation. They are not having to foot hotel bills as they are staying with friends in Johannesburg.

Ken Leiman, a joinery consultant from Durban, is staying with friends in north London, where he is stuck.

Leiman went to London to do an installation and had finished the job by last Tuesday.

“I booked my flight for Saturday night to ensure I had enough time to finish. I could have actually flown back on Wednesday before any of the flights were cancelled.

“The repercussions are starting to mount, and as much as I enjoy London, I need to get home now. I have work to do, my business recently relocated and there are things I need to attend to,” said Leiman.

He said he is keeping an eye on the news to see when British Airways will allow flights out. “I am hoping and assuming that once they allow flights they will remain in the order they were stopped. If that’s the case, and the flights start this evening, I should be out of here within two-and-a-half days.”

Jenni Millard and her family were meant to fly back to the UK last Friday, but she says they are not too inconvenienced as they are staying with relatives on the south coast.

She says her and her husband’s companies have been understanding. “They have accepted that there is clearly nothing we can do,” she said.

“Emirates [Airlines] have taken our phone numbers and have said that they will ring us if anything becomes available. We also call every day to check, and have been in contact with friends who work in the travel industry,” said Millard.

Bianca Farrow, who is stuck in Germany, said she was at the airport two days ago and it was “dead”.

She was supposed to be coming home to South Africa via Paris on Sunday, and is hoping that by Thursday she will be home.

“The only good thing that has come out of it is that I get to spend a few more days with my boyfriend,” she said. “The hotels in Munich are apparently packed and people are sleeping at the airport.

“Another problem is visas. I’m on my way to Foreign Affairs to get an extension, and I think that there are loads of people who will need to do the same,” said Farrow.

Eleanor Pienaar, a graphic designer with The Witness, was meant to leave Johannesburg for London on Thursday evening. She is running in the London Marathon on Sunday and hopes to get on a flight by tomorrow.

She said that while the delay is not an ideal situation, her airline, Virgin Atlantic, “has been absolutely fabulous”.

“They have put me up in a hotel for five nights and covered all my meals, I can even use the gym to train”.

Pienaar is certain she will get on the first flight out as she already has a boarding pass.

“Our plane is waiting for us on the runway and all the crew are here in Jo’burg.

“Virgin update us twice a day on what is going on and they have said that there might be a window for us to fly tomorrow,” she said yesterday.



Passengers can contact the following call centres for assistance with rebooking their flights to an alternative date or routing:

From SA: (011) 978 1111 or 0861 606 606;

From the UK: 0871 722 1111 during opening hours, from 9 am to 5 pm UK local time; and

From Germany: +49(0) 692 998 0320 during opening hours, from 9 am to 6 pm German local time.

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