Thursday, September 23, 2010


The Nairobi flight from Bombay arrived late. I was in transit on my way to the Zambian capital of Lusaka. As the connecting time was less than three hours due to the lateness of the AI (Air India) flight from Bombay, no hotel accommodation was provided. The passengers were made to sit and wait in the departure lounge of the Jomo Kenyata airport without any lunch. We were told that lunch would be provided onboard.

The QZ (Zambia Airways) flight to Lusaka was scheduled to depart at 1.50 p.m. There were no announcements about our departure until 1.45 p.m. On enquiry at the QZ checking counter we were told that our plane which was supposed to arrive from Lusaka at 12 noon had not arrived yet. Consequently, the return flight would be delayed.

I was returning from India after a short visit. My journey had commenced from Trivandrum on the previous morning. The Juhu beach hotel where I was accommodated in between flights was not one of the best. As a result, I was feeling tired and sleepy.

At 1.45 p.m. there was an announcement that the QZ flight to Lusaka was delayed by 90 minutes. That meant the plane would leave by 3.20 p.m. only at the earliest. I noticed that the Zambia Airways checking counter was deserted. There was no one to whom the passengers could complain about their plight or request for some lunch coupons. Those who did possess any foreign currency moved to the restaurants at the airport and got themselves some snacks while the others remained hungry.

The call to board the flight to Lusaka came around 3.30 p.m. There was a great scramble among the hundred and fifteen passengers to make a rush and get into the plane, lest it would depart without them. However, it was 4.15 p.m. by the time the plane took off. As soon as it was air-borne and we were well on our way, lunch was served but I was not feeling hungry. The only thing I wanted was to reach home as early as possible.

The first jolt came as we were just cruising over Mount Kilimanjaro. The pilot interrupted his scenic description over the public address system to warn the passengers about "a little turbulence". The "fasten seat belt" signs flashed on. It was followed by a second jolt, more frightening than the first one as the Boeing 737 aircraft plunged into another air pocket. It made some babies to scream and some grown-ups to become uneasy. Even though there were a few more jolts, the passengers got used to the pattern and the pilot managed to keep the plane on its course. However we all heaved a sigh of relief when it was announced that the plane would land at Lusaka International Airport within ten minutes' time.

It was with a severe jolt that the wheels of the aircraft touched down on the tarmac accompanied by a deafening roar of the jet engines as if it were going to pieces. Everyone thought that we had crash-landed and this was the end. However, we soon realized that the plane was taxiing smoothly on the runway while we heard a sweet melodious voice announcing through the plane's public address system ".......Captain Gilby and his crew thank all the passengers who have been frying with us and we hope you enjoyed the fright".

There was no doubt that we did!