Thursday, January 14, 2010

Is This Any Time to Fly?

12:01am and we are in the lobby meeting John for our last taxi ride, this one to the airport. So far, in two days, John has earned 7,500 (75 euros) from our venturing around the city. When he says he hates to see us go, you know there is sincerity in those words.

On the way to the airport, we stop at three different gas stations, the first two are out of gas. This is the second time today we were with John when he had to get gas, making us wonder why he doesn't fill up once and be done with it? 

Nairobi's airport is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What we are uncertain about is how early the ticket counters open for checking in and getting boarding passes. Before you can enter the terminal, you have to go through security. We lucked out, the Turkish Air counters were open and there were already about twenty people ahead of us. Slow does not describe the young man who checked us in. We were at the counter for a good twenty minutes, while I am watching the clerks around us moving people through like assembly lines.

Once we are released with boarding passes in hand, we head for the escalator upstairs to find the Diners Club lounge, but cannot get to the escalator without showing our boarding passes. The Diners Club lounge is the same as that used for fifteen airlines. We walk in ready to present our DC card to the reception as we have done dozens of times on past trips. Sitting behind the counter is an older woman, most likely in her late 50s or early 60s. Her skin tone resembles fresh brewed coffee with 6 drops of cream added, but as your eyes move upward, you can't miss the hair. It was the color of a Tequila Sunrise, which was pretty appropriate since her hair was pointing out of her head in all directions like rays of the sun in a child's drawing. It could have been an overdone Statue of Liberty style. Instead of the crown, she went whole head crazy. I hand her my card, she takes it and immediately returns it to me. Now, I have done this routine enough times to know they swipe the card or at the bare minimum, write the number down. She did neither, just mumbled "We donwnl aerjow ehrh thrthgj ljadjfl". Excuse me? It took three times and the two of us listening, concentrating and as a last resort, recording the comment for instant and continual replay until we had it translated. 

Finally, we got the message, but we did not like it at all. They do not take Diners Club with a MasterCard logo, which in fact is every Diners Club issued in the US. The only reason we keep the Diners Club is for the airport lounge access and the miles, but it seems both services are shrinking rapidly. We were refused entry in Amsterdam's lounge stating that DC ended the contract. We went round and round with the woman. I even showed here the print out from the DC website showing the Nairobi lounges listed, but to no avail. We had over 2 hours before our flight; we had our lounge time planned. It is so much more comfortable than 'out there'.  We succumbed to paying our way in at $30 a person. The rationalization was that we thought were were going to have to pay a departure tax to leave Kenya. We did in Tanzania. Since we saved on that fee, we could splurge on the lounge. It was 12:30 in the morning, the flight was rotating between 3:40 and 4:45 every 7 minutes, so it looked like a long night. Heck, we did not have to pay for the night in the hotel, so this is also like our hotel. You can be sure now that I am going on the warpath against Diners Club. I will be posting everywhere warning people of the shrinking of perks while the annual fee goes up. With 2 other MasterCards, I don't need this one any longer.

When they called our flight, we had to go through security again at the gate. We travel wearing boots, Budapest is cold both leaving and returning. They are too bulky to pack and put on when we arrive home, but they are also a pain for security. We know they set off the alarms; it is the eyelets. I started to just carry them around while wearing disposable socks I had left over from some other airlines long distance flight.

Ironically, the Turkish Air flight from Nairobi to Istanbul was showing The Time Traveler's Wife, but they had the old drop down screens. I did not think I would stay awake anyway, so skipped it. We had to change planes in Istanbul with a 3 hour layover. There was no Diners Club lounge to test out, so we went to Gloria Jeans for a coffee. Knock me over, $16 for two coffees, one large, one medium. Yikes!

The next flight was just as uneventful, but only 1 hour and 50 minutes, so no movies at all. 

When we arrived home, the kitchen window was open and the window on the front door too. Balazs were in the kitchen cleaning. He had been staying here on and off with our blessings, but had not cleaned up after himself along the way. He thought we were not returning until tomorrow, so had designs on cleaning, grocery shopping, and preparing a dinner for us. We messed up those plans and he has to work tonight anyway. All is good.

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