My recent trip to Africa started off on a bad note. I know travel this summer was going to be a challenge, but I did not realize how comically bad my luck flying to Africa would be.
My plan was to fly from Washington D.C. to Nairobi, Kenya via Lagos and Addis Ababa. I booked this ticket due to the low fuel surcharges and availability at time of booking. It would allow me to try out both United and Ethiopian’s business class products, however, that did not go according to plan.
In this article, I describe the multitude of issues that happened with my travels to East Africa.
This article is part of my Trip Report: Starting Summer in East Africa including:
- My Comically Bad Luck Flying to Africa
- Lufthansa Senator Lounge IAD Review
- Lufthansa Business Class Lounge IAD Review
- Flight Review: Lufthansa B747-8 Economy IAD-FRA
- My First Flight on a Queen: My Thoughts
- Flight Review: Lufthansa A330 Business Class FRA-NBO
- Hotel Review: DoubleTree Nairobi
- Flight Review: Air Kenya to Keekorok Air Kenya
- Hotel Review: JW Marriott Masai Mara
- Is the JW Marriott Worth $3k a Night?
- Lounge Review: Aspire Lounge NBO
- Flight Review: Kenya Airways NBO-ZNZ
- Exploring Zanzibar: My Thoughts
- Airline Nightmare: Delayed in Tanzania
- Flight Review: Air Tanzania ZNZ-ARU
- Mt. Kilimanjaro Hike: My Thoughts
- Exploring Moshi, Tanzania: What Everyone Gets Wrong
- Lounge Review: Aspire Lounge JRO
- Weirdest Flight Delay I Have Ever Had…
- Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa Executive Regency Suite
- Exploring Addis Ababa: My Thoughts
- Lounge Review: Ethiopian Business Class Lounge Addis Ababa
- Flight Review: Ethiopian B787-8 Business Class ADD-IAD
- My 18 Hour Odd Business Class Experience
Part 1: Delay and Misconnection
I had an evening departure flying United to Lagos. Unfortunately, about 8 hours before my flight, I was notified of a delay. While I was surprised to receive an email so early, I learned why: there was a maintenance issue with the inbound aircraft.
Rather than departing in the evening, the plane was scheduled to take off the following morning, a 12-hour delay. Unfortunately, this meant that I would miss my connection for my onward flight to Addis Ababa.
I needed a new flight option to get to Kenya.
First Issue: Solved
As I did not want to spend more than 12 hours in the Lagos airport (and did not have a Visa to enter the country), my next option was to call the airlines to try to rebook. Although I was on an ANA award ticket, I called United since they were the operating carrier, and I could reach the elite desk.
The agent was apologetic and offered me a connecting flight leaving at a similar time from Dulles and connecting one-stop to Nairobi via Frankfort. Unfortunately, she could put me in business on the second leg to Nairobi, and not the overnight flight to Frankfort, which would be economy on an A330.
Then I remembered that Lufthansa flew their 747-8 to D.C. and it had always been a dream of mine to get on board a queen of the skies. I asked the agent to check if there was any availability the following day on the flight operated by the queen.
Luckily, there was business class availability on that flight. So rather than departing on Saturday, I left on Sunday and arrived a day late, but I was going to fly on the second deck of a 747!
Part 2: Involuntary Downgrade
The following day, excited to fly a 747, I went to the airport, boarding pass in hand. After capturing the lounge and enjoying some pre-flight snacks, it was time to board the flight.
When I went to scan my boarding pass and board the plane, the reader said seat issue. The agent instructed me to go to the desk, and while confused, I complied. After waiting for an agent, I was informed of the bad news.
Without a pause, he told me that there was a maintenance issue with the upper deck and that because of it, they needed to downgrade many passengers from that business class cabin. It took a second to register, but I realized quickly that this would not be the exciting flight that I was looking forward to.
While I was still lucky enough to fly to Frankfurt, I was downgraded to economy. I asked if there were any premium economy seats left at least: no. Any chance I can score or pay for an upgrade to first: no.
Unfortunately, there were also only middle seats left, a little bit different from the lie-flat seat on the second deck I was expecting.
The Last Point
While I was still grateful to be headed off on my African adventure and able to finally fly the queen of the skies regardless of the cabin I was flying, getting to Nairobi was more challenging than I originally expected.
After first a delay that led me to modifying my original ticket, the second ticket was downgraded to a middle seat in economy.
Time to reach out for EU261 compensation!