In Summary

  • MEMORIES. Recently, a politician was whisked away from a RwandAir flight and I can relate to his experience except that I was favoured, writes ROBERT MUGAGGA.

Air travel has different classes by which passengers travel depending on the size of their pockets and status.
For instance, the Airbus A380, one of the most sophisticated modern air crafts we have today offers long range, greater capacity, higher eco-efficiency, lower emissions and great comfort.

Take an example of A380 first class where passengers enjoy among others, seats that are adjustable to any position (upright, dining or bed) or to any intermediate position between upright and flat-bed. There are electrically operated doors, a work desk with built-in illuminated vanity mirror, reading lights, electrically controlled mini-bars and room service feature.

With such background, it is understandable why almost every air traveller will always look forward to one day flying first or business classes with the Lwengo District chairman Geoffrey Mutabaazi being no exception.

Mutabaazi, who became famous for flogging the people of Lwengo “into sense” recently cried as he was being dragged out a Rwanda Air flight for insisting to sit in business class whereas he had an economy ticket. Such reminded me of what happened to me some years back when I accidentally flew KLM business class but survived being booted.

My options
In this case it was a mistake made by one of the cabin crew members. I had been given two travel options to pick from by my sponsors, the Brussels- based European Commission. Either had to fly to my final destination of Brussels in Belgium directly by Brussels Airlines or travel by the Dutch KLM via Nairobi then Amsterdam. Well, I picked KLM as this longer route would enable me observe and experience a lot to report about. After all, a Luganda saying goes: “Okutambula kulaba, okudda kunyumya (Meaning that “One travels to see and later returns to tell).

Besides, there was another funny reason I picked the Nairobi route. Jomo Kenyatta international airport happened is my favourite station. Having always passed here during many of my previous trips, I had made some good friends such as a Kikuyu beauty, Priscillah Njoki, who was working at the Kenya airways transit lounge then. This way I would not be bored while waiting for the connecting flight.

Having arrived in Nairobi and waited for almost two hours, I prepared to board a huge KLM airbus destined for Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. Having been issued with a new boarding pass, I mistakenly put it in the same pocket of my jacket that had the Entebbe-Nairobi one.

How my luck came
So when I was boarding and asked to present the Nairobi-Amsterdam one I instead unknowingly presented the one from Entebbe. The KLM air hostess looked at it, smiled a bit and directed me to the unfamiliar plane section where I had never been before. She wished me a nice journey. I looked confused and almost protested but I thought, “Musajja wa Kabaka, don’t turn into a fool, grab this golden opportunity.”

As I majestically headed to this exclusive travel class, I was wondering. Has it taken Ekpo Haitsima, the administrative attache at the EU head office in Kampala (who had always organised my EU-connected travels) this long to realise the importance of African journalists and that they deserve to fly business class? This sudden change of status was making me uncomfortable. I looked like a miserable slum dweller who from nowhere has been moved from a one-roomed house in Katwe to a bungalow in Kololo. As I was being guided to the business class section, the largely White passengers in Economy class behind me seemed to look on with envy.

The terrific atmosphere
We were less than 20 passengers in there and seated far apart. Prior to departure as I was enjoying a glass of champagne, I noticed something unpleasant. The same KLM cabin crew woman that had directed me ,walked in my direction, but this time without a smile. She was holding a list of names and inquired to see my boarding pass once again.

Troubled me
I gave it to her plus the one I had left in my pocket. She looked at the one I had presented on entering the aircraft, laughed a bit and said something like.
“I now realise that you are not supposed to sit in this class. Well but since this was my mistake, do not worry, for I will not move you.” Before she could complete the sentence, I had begun trembling and almost breaking into bouts of sweat. I could not imagine the humiliation I would face while being escorted to the economy section where I belonged.

I only thanked God that this was not an African Airline, otherwise I would immediately be blamed for the mishap and possibly dragged like a chicken thief , ‘the Mutabaazi style’ to the lower class. Just like that, I survived and counted my blessings.

In the business class I felt like being in heaven.