Traffic snarl-ups in Nairobi are common and unpredictable, which is why as a travel agent, the phones in our office begin to ring incessantly in the evening when our clients are running late for their evening flights at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Since security checks were enhanced last year, it takes about 10 minutes to make it through the first security check, and it is, therefore, advisable to arrive at the airport at least three hours ahead of flight time.
But some people do get late. Here is what we do to make sure they make it onto the flight:
We call the airport to find out the status of the flight. The station manager of the airline will advise whether the flight is delayed or on time. In the case of unusual traffic delays to the airport, airlines such as Emirates hold their flights for upto 20 minutes to allow passengers to get to the airport.
We also ensure that we check in the client online. This is now possible for most airlines in the region and is available 24 hours before departure time for international flights and closes about an hour before take-off.
You can check in from your mobile device or laptop, or if already at the airport, use the self check-in kiosks available to at save yourself time. The self check-in kiosks service is only available for use by passengers on Kenya Airways, South African Airways and KLM flights.
Another time saving tip when late is going straight to the priority check-in line. Elite passengers are usually fewer and if you ask politely and explain the urgency of the situation to airline officials, they will allow you to go through.
Actually if you are one of the last passengers to board and all the elite passengers have boarded, in most cases, the airline staff will give you the priority treatment. They will also call the gate to let them know that a priority passenger is on the way.
Always remember that boarding begins 45 minutes to half an hour before the scheduled departure time and so work backwards to assess whether you’ll make it for the flight.
Finally, we make sure that the airline‘s system hasn’t recorded the passenger as a no-show and cancelled the return. It is rare that this happens but sometimes it does. It is crucial for us to check this immediately.
Since we know that airlines can delay flights for elite passengers and dignitaries, we always mention this status when calling to report a delayed passenger.
Wanjiru Catherine, founder Saffara Ltd, a travel management company [email protected]