Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Best Flights of my Life

Our flights got off to a rocky start but ended quite well. We woke up on time at 3:30am after only three hours of sleep and went to the lobby to grab the airport shuttle at 4:20. Keep in mind that our flight takes off at 6:30am. The shuttles only operate to terminals 1,2,3 and 5. We are flying out of terminal 4 but the concierge and the driver assure us that we can go to 1,2,3 or 5 and take a short tram to terminal 4. We arrive at terminal 2 around 4:40 and head down to the train.

The doors to the station were locked and there were no signs about when the trains would start so we started to get a little nervous. We decided it would be best to grab a cab over to terminal 4. We hop in and the driver doesn’t move. He tells us that the trip is 4.5 miles (not kilometers oddly enough) and that it will cost 22 pounds. We only have 22 pounds and the smallest US bill we have is a $20 but at this point we don’t really have another option. We take the ride over for 22 pounds, tip roughly 12 pounds ($20) and get dropped off at what looks like an abandoned construction site. The driver tells us where the elevator is and says he has no idea what’s beyond the doors.

We take the elevator down and head into a deserted airport terminal. Eventually we find a line of people over 200 deep for the bag check and jump in line. We make it to our terminal with only a few minutes to spare and we were off to Amsterdam.

The flight to Amsterdam is 45 minutes by air. KLM is the best airline to fly. We were served sandwiches (bread and smoked gouda and another cinnamon raisin roll) and beverages. When we got on our 747 for Nairobi there was service like you wouldn’t believe. During the usual safety video they advertise that we can go to the galley whenever we like for a beverage or a snack but within minutes of the seatbelt sign coming on they were serving our hot meal. On European flights all beverages, including alcoholic, are free of charge. I toasted a glass of wine with the gentleman next to me. I eventually fell asleep and apparently missed ice cream (and another round of drinks). I woke up to them serving another fantastic meal and another round of drinks; the man two seats to my left ordered a beer and brandy (separate). I was seated in the exit row (ahhhhh legroom) and we faced the flight attendant during takeoff and landing and as we were on our approach I was telling her how wonderful the service was and that it’s nothing like this on US flights and she looked baffled and asked me, “what do the flight attendants do?” I have no idea Elona.

Our final flight from Nairobi started with a 2.5 hour layover in Nairobi. Nairobi inside the terminal was pleasant enough and we found two other OLPC teams waiting for our flight. We got to know them and when our flight arrived we headed out. There was no jetway, we walked straight onto the tarmac and started at two Kenya Air jets with no signage to differentiate which plane to get on. We eventually found a man to ask and he directed us to a third plane. When our 1 hour flight to Kigali took off we were again served a meal and had wonderful service from the flight attendants. Landing in Kigali was quiet at this time (midnight) and customs was quick and painless. Our luggage arrived safe and we were off to Chez Rose, our hotel for the trip.

-XO Mike


  1. I'm so happy to hear that you arrived safely and are in such good spirits.

    hugs and kisses,

  2. We were confused at the airport too. Locked doors and a general sense of confusion as well. Don't feel ashamed about it.

    I've often found that foreign airlines somehow have a better sense of how to make the flights just a little more classier.

    Air France has always beaten American Airlines in every regard, but I've never had the chance to fly KLM- it sounds fantastic