I couldn’t really understand why I hadn’t thought of doing it before. A daytime flight had to be the epitome of how international travel is supposed to be. It doesn’t require you to fold your body into contortions alongside hundreds of strangers, to manage at least some semblance of sleep, while squashed into a seat with space enough for a couple of battery hens. Surely, I thought, there’s a better way to do this?
Around 2 weeks before the planned departure date, and a few weeks after the flight had been booked, it occurred to be that this departure time would require rather an early start. I mean, think about it. If I was to fly at 08h40, I would need to be at OR Thambo International Airport by 04h30 in the morning to meet the 3 hour international check in requirement. Quickly continuing my calculations, cleverly aided by my fingers, I realised this meant a wake-up time of around 03h15. In other words, I would have to be awake half the night. This was beginning to sound not so very different from a night time flight after all.
As it happened, I did get up at 03h15 and arrived promptly at the airport before they opened the doors! I mean, who ever heard of an international airport being closed for the night?
Stuck on the outside looking in, and with no apparent entrance open, I began to get a little anxious. After walking up and down a bit in vain, I finally discovered an automated door that was working. Inside it wasn’t much different. Only a few bodies were around and most of those were peering at me sleepily, as though wondering what I was doing there at this unearthly time of the day… or night. The BA check-in counter wasn’t even open yet, although there were a number of people standing about in BA uniforms having some kind of crack-of-dawn staff meeting, most with their eyes closed.
Anyway, in good time, my bags were weighed in and I was released into that nether world behind the check-in counters where, it seemed, night time mode continued. One person grumpily checked passports… no one really observed anything at the security check… no shops were open in the duty free. Happily, and as advertised, the FNB slow lounge was open. The greeters politely greeted… and the food was set out appealingly for its lone 3 customers, of which I was one. Breakfast was ON and things were looking up!
After a leisurely breakfast, I made my way in relaxed fashion to the departure lounge. This was situated about as far at the end of the airport as it was possible to go without arriving in Boksburg. Once again, there were only a few people about, but reassuringly, the plane was being serviced directly in front of us. This was around 10 minutes before boarding time and only about 50 or so people loitered around, so I was wondering why so many had left it until the last moment to arrive. Perhaps, unlike me, they had done this before and knew there would be no one about so early in the morning?
But then, my thoughts were rudely interrupted by the boarding announcement. Now I began to get really anxious for all those latecomers who were clearly being far too relaxed about the early start. However, as we boarded, I soon realised that there were NO MORE PEOPLE. We were about to experience the most under booked international flight ever known to man… well, at least man departing on a daytime flight to the UK from Johannesburg!