Thursday, October 21, 2010

Another thrilling OR Tambo experience

I had to make another dreaded trip to OR TAMBO International Airport today, to pick up one of my son’s mates who arrived from the UK. I always dread these trips to the airport as I never know what to expect along the R21 Route from Pretoria. If all goes well the trip usually takes approximately 40 minutes, but if you encounter traffic problems then it can easily take 2 hours to get to the airport.

Nevertheless, things went pretty smoothly this morning, until I walked into the waiting zone for international arrivals, at Terminal A. I was greeted by a rather rowdy bunch of blacks waving placards, dancing, and jubilantly shouting slogans in a language I don’t understand and probably never will, - no matter how hard I try. To the left of the rowdy bunch of blacks stood a contingency, consisting of about 30 uniformed black police officers, who appeared to be monitoring the spectacle. The entire lot, the cops and the noisy bunch, completely blocked the view near the entrance.

Although I had no idea what the commotion was all about, I did experience some amusing moments while watching the passengers from Air France enter the noisy African scene. Some of the expressions on the faces of those Frenchman were hilarious! The entire mob eventually left the building, making an ear-splitting commotion in the process, in typical Xhosa-style. I overheard someone saying that it was the ANC Youth League who were welcoming Miss Teen Universe. I overheard another chap say, “well she could definitely not have been white!”

Later, while I was waiting in the queue at the pay station, where the airport commits daylight robbery at R30 per hour, I was greeted by another commotion. An elderly lady with a English-cockney accent seemed quite upset because the machine was refusing to return her ticket and also her change. “Bloedy hell, thoes is bloedy daylight bloedy robbery. What, ninety bloedy rand?” There was a help button on the machine, but when it was pressed an automatic voice simply said, “please be patient, we are busy!” The voice kept on repeating that same phrase for about 10 minutes. By then the queue behind me had doubled in length. I tried remaining calm by repeating the phrase, “This Is Africa – This Is Africa” silently in my head! My thoughts were interrupted when an Indian fellow standing directly behind me said, “This Is Africa!” He was probably reading my thoughts!

About five security guards, standing near the pay station with their hands in their pockets, thought that the whole malema-dilemma at the pay station was one big fat joke. Although I do not understand their dialogue, I do read body language. I eventually approached them and asked for assistance. “You must go to the office,” a man told me. “Where is the office?” I asked. In a typical no-care attitude he simply said, ‘that way,” and lifted his chin slightly in the general direction, keeping his hands in his pockets. The ‘office’ seemed quite some distance away so I decided to wait at the pay station, hoping for some miracle to happen. It was quite obvious that security personnel were not going to allow anyone to leave the parking area without paying first. The problem at the pay station was finally resolved about 30 minutes later. The machine refused to give me R20 change, but I wasn’t going to hang around for one minute longer.

This evening I decided to google Miss Teen Universe. Sure enough, a 16 year old lady by the name of Chante Jantjies from South Africa is the new Miss Teenager Universe 2010. She was crowned at the finale held on October 17th in San Jose, Costa Rica, where over 30 countries participated. She was also Miss South Africa Teen in 2009.

The press release by the President of the ANC Youth League, inviting the media to welcome Miss Teen Universe at OR Tambo airport, can be viewed here.

The punchline is that Chante Jantjies attends Lyttleton Manor High School in Centurion, the same school I attended between the years 1973 to 1977, when it was still an all-white school. Click here for more details concerning Chante Jantjies.


laager said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Welcome back TIA

On ORT may I alert readers to another scam that operates there.

I passed through a year ago. Family dropped us off at International Departures. We were immediately harassed by a bunch of "porters" who wanted to push our luggage trolley.

Knowing that times are hard in SA and that I had loose change in my pocket that I wanted to get rid of I decided to employ one of these "independent contractors"

It was clear that the man had popped in from the local squatter camp for the night shift to make a R or two. He had no uniform, he was scruffy, unkempt, dirty and smelled to high heaven - just like the rest of them. Zero hygiene.

Once loaded he accompanied us into the hall with a non stop babble of drivel that I could not understand. My wife had to make a call so I was left stranded with this reprobate for about 5 minutes. Enough is enough. As I wife returned I decided to terminate our contract and pay him off - R6 for 5 minutes "work" - standing around jabbering. He aggressively refused to accept the money as it was not enough. I pocketed my money, took back my trolley and walked to check in pushing my trolley just like I do whenever I travel in Europe or the USA.

Think about it: R1/minute = R60/hr x 8 = R480/day x 22 = R10,560/month x 12 = R126,720/year potential income divide 12 = £10,560 which is what a junior/trainee nurse earns in the UK

My advice to anyone departing ORT is to avoid these characters.
Get off the public streets as soon as you can. Enter the terminals through the parkade/car hire building - either when dropping your hire car or get your friends/family to drop you off there. Cross straight into the terminals - preferably at an upper level - and then proceed to your terminal within the series of linked terminal buildings.

Tia Mysoa said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Thanks Laager,

I’m not fully back into the blogging scene yet, but will hopefully get there soon.

Thanks for sharing this scam with fellow readers.

Now that the 2010 World Cup Soccer is a thing of the past, helpful and friendly service-delivery at the OR Tambo airport is basically non-existent. In fact, if walls could speak, I’m sure there would have been many horror-stories concerning foreign World Cup visitors, particularly European folk.

About two weeks ago when I visited the airport to pick up someone who happened to be disabled, I was rudely pounced on by a gang of black security guards when I pulled off in a zone for the disabled. My explanations only agitated them more, and I was eventually told to exit the airport, drive all the way round and to park in the first open parking area on my right. That was apparently the airports designated pickup parking-zone for disabled passengers! It is about 10 minutes walk from Terminal A, - maybe 5min if you walk at a brisk pace and your not carting luggage!

The standard procedure is that disabled people should be escorted via wheelchair, by airport staff, from the aeroplane all the way to your vehicle. This procedure apparently does not apply to everyone, unless you specifically ask for it and are prepared to pay a ridiculous fee, which they call a “tip”. A R20 tip is considered as an insult!

In the above posting I did not describe in detail the shambles that occurred at that specific pay-station on Thursday 21 Oct. It was the same exterior pay-station I had used before. One has to walk through the entire parking lot to get to the cubicle – strategically placed for maximum profit! To the right of the cash machine was a smaller machine that accepted credit cards. This machine was also faulty, but there were no warnings to this effect. At one point in time an inaudible female voice emerged over the speaker near the “help” button. I recognised the dialect as being Xhosa but couldn’t understand a word. The security guards standing nearby were obviously in radio contact with the voice on the speaker. It was as clear as daylight that these barbarian-hooligans were enjoying every moment of the spectacle, -- at the expense of frustrated airport customers!

Although their arrogance and apathy is totally unacceptable, there is absolutely nothing one can do about it. You’d be wasting your time and energy by lodging a formal complaint to management, - for THIS IS AFRICA!!!

Laager said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

I have just come across this in my reading to keep up to speed with news on SA
If this is old news for you - my apologies
If not - please spread the word amongst your circle of influence.

A new form of extortion and bribery has now reared it's head at ORT in JHB
At international departures ORT has a system whereby your luggage is weighed before you proceed to the check in desks.
At this point your luggage is weighed again, tags attached and sent on its way through the automated baggage handling system

What has emerged is that at the preliminary weigh in, luggage is consistently being declared overweight and the excess luggage fees are applied.
These run at R100+/kilogram - a hefty penalty
The reality is that these scales are set to over read by between 6kgs, 8kgs and 12kgs

The crooks running this scam know that they have got you over a barrel
You are in a hurry - what do you do with the "extra weight" if you can't/don't want to pay the penalty fee etc?
One option is to send it on a later flight at air cargo rates.
Bottom line: it puts you into an unnecessary stressful situation where you are forced to make some instant decisions.
Maybe not the right ones in the circumstances as you are rushed to be processed to catch your flight

Now here is the kicker
Talking in code, the corrupt official will let you know that for a reduced fee he will let you through
Slip the money behind the scale (i.e. no hand to hand transfer) - no receipt issued - and you are on your way
Not only may you be forced into being dishonest but you are contributing to a possible safety risk.
What if every passenger was let through with genuine excess baggage and the aircraft ends up being overloaded?

How to beat the crooks.
Make sure that you are under your allowance and weigh your luggage before you leave home.
Be prepared. Carry a fish scale in your pocket to prove your point at the airport if you have to.
Arrive in good time for your flight so that you can deal with problems such as these calmly in good time without being harassed or stressed

Best of all travel as light as you can.

We use the budget airlines (e.g. Kulula) in the UK frequently
They charge heavy fees for any luggage that goes into the hold
They are trying to achieve the following: - Reduce the weight of the aircraft
This means carrying less fuel, reduced operating costs and achieving quicker flight times = keeping the fares low
It also speeds up turnaround time of the aircraft with less luggage/freight to load/unload = maintaining punctuality targets.
Bottom line: they are encouraging you to have one piece of cabin luggage only.

With the travelling that I have done I have learned how to survive for two weeks out of a single carry on case
I use a soft bag as it weighs less that the wheeled rigid cases and enables me to pack up to 11kgs - the limit set by most airlines
This also gets round the luggage theft issue that ORT is also plagued with. Your luggage is with you all the time.
Norwich Union recently published a survey in the UK identifying the airports around the world where they pay out the most claims for
"lost" luggage and thefts from luggage
ORT topped the list - i.e. it is the worst in the world.

Safe travels and don't let the crooks put one over you

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