The Words You Do Not Want to Hear When Traveling By Air « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Words You Do Not Want to Hear When Traveling By Air

The Words You Do Not Want to Hear When Traveling By Air

“That flight does not exist anymore.” Those were the words that greeted me when I finally got through the nightmarish visa line and was relieved of $100 US cash money at Dar Es Salaam Julius Nyerere International Airport and tried to get a boarding pass for my 4:30pm flight to Arusha. Interesting I thought. My bags were checked through to Arusha by the Ethiopian Airlines agent the day before when I boarded my 12 1/2 hour flight to Addis Ababa. But she was just going by what was on my printed itinerary….

“We can fly you to Kilamanjaro. You’ll need to go back and get your checked bags. Do hurry as the flight is boarding in two minutes.” Without thinking much about it I asked the agent if I could leave my 46 1/2 pound Think Tank Airport International roll aboard, the one with roughly $40,000 worth of Canon camera gear and my 20 pound laptop bag with my US passport and much too much US cash with her behind the counter. She said “yes” and summoned a nice young man to help me get my two checks bags. After setting off only one loud alarm we wound our way back to baggage claim only to find a total mob scene as several flights had landed at once. We ascertained rather quickly that all the bags from the Dar Es Salaam flight had been taken of the conveyor and thrown into a big pile.

At first I did not see any of my bags, but finally spotted my large soft-sided Delsey bag. I figure if one made it that it was likely that the other did also. But after tossing dozens of bags about to get to the bottom of the pile my hard plastic Delsey bag, the indestructible one that has been with me on every great trip for the past 15 years, was nowhere to be seen. Then, the young man who was helping me pointed to a second smaller pile of bags on the other side of the conveyor belt. There it was.

We hurried back to the counter where the very nice Precision Air lady checked me in for the Kilamanjaro flight. I gave the young man a $5 bill, grabbed my two carry-ons, and was off through security. I scarcely had time to worry if I would be busted for my 46 1/2 pound roll-aboard–the limit is something like 17 pounds, or be busted for my vest as a third carry-on. Or whether I would be forced to gate-check my camera bag.

Not to worry. A male flight attendant came down the steps and carried my Think Tank bag up the steps and placed is an an empty row. Never once mentioning the weight. And 90 minutes later, he helped me down the steps. Not to mention that a small bag of cashews was the onboard snack. My absolute favorites.

But how would I get to the African Tulip Hotel? Roy’s Safari was supposed to meet me at the Arusha airport but I was at the Kilamanjaro airport. The bags came out quickly, and after a brief pit stop I exited the terminal. The first sign that I saw said “Airport Taxi-We Go Anyhere.” I figured that the hour ride would cost me a minimum of $100 US, perhaps twice that much.

And then, there was Jacob, smiling when he saw me. He was holding a sign that said in big letters, “Arthur Morris” on a Roy’s Safari placard. Life is good.

ps: I am in the beautiful and spacious African Tulip Hotel. My dinner of chicken curry and lentils was superb, and after doing EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) tapping the whole way here, my body clock is reset to Tanzania time.

ps: Talk about re-setting your body clock… I slept 11 1/2 hours and almost missed breakfast!

19 comments to The Words You Do Not Want to Hear When Traveling By Air

  • Helene

    Thanks for the EFT link…you are living a wonderful life!

  • Herman Hiel

    That are indeed words you don’t want to hear.
    Other words you don’t want to hear happended to me in Frankfurt, Germany 2 weeks ago, flying to Namibia on Air Namibia: ‘your bag needs to be weighted’…My Loewepro Road Runner AW weighs around 20kgs (40 lbs) and the agent was not to be influenced: too big and too heavy. So my bag had to be checked in and eventually she gave me 2 small pathetic looking plastic bags; so I divided my gear over the 2 plastics bags and my ‘normal’ backpack and carried everything in my arms (I was afraid the bags would tear). On the way back, the agent in Namibia didn’t even bother to ask. One trick is to go immediately close to the counter and try to hide the photo bag.

    • @Hermann: Were you at least able to take all the cameras/lenses with you into the plane? Did you only have to check in the bag or also some expensive equipment?


      • Herman Hiel

        I was allowed 3 bags as carry-on in the end: my own small, normal back-pack and the 2 bags provided by the counter agents. Luckily everything fitted in the bags and my Road Runner had to be checked (empty). So I carried all my gear (500f4IS, 300f2.8, 70-200f2.8, 1 D mark 4 and 1 D mark 3, 3 extenders, binocs) in my arms and on my back. Germans are reputed for sticking to rules and they surely lived up to their reputation. And as I said, on the return flight: no problem whatsoever.

        • Herman,

          I had a similar problem from Munich to Madrid. They made trouble because my Lowepro Backpack was over 10kg (4/500, small lenses, 7D, binocs, scope). First argued with each other if 8kg or 10kg is the limit. While doing that I put lot’s of stuff (binocs, extender, batteries, etc) in my jacked and then I ended up with 9kg and this was ok.
          In Madrid nobody cared.
          Sometimes it helps when you tell them how expensive the stuff is. The equipment you describe is for sure way over 8kg which seems to be the official limit on German airports. At least they let you carry it with you.


  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thanks all for the good wishes. The safaris is off to a good start. artie

  • Nancy Bell

    Yes, I remember that sorry excuse of a visa line at Addis Ababa! Incredible long, slow lines and agents with very short, dull pencils. You certainly had a angel (or two) helping you get through this experience. Onward to the fun part!

  • Richard Wozniak

    Who organised this trip?
    If a flight ‘no longer exists’ someone is not doing their job properly – even if it is Africa.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Richard. What does who organized the tour have to do with flights that I purchased myself? I have had flight cancelled in the US. In this case the fault lies with Precision Air. As for me, all’s well that ends well.

      Actually, the guy that organized the tour, Todd Gustafson, somehow figured out that the flight no longer existed and had me picked up at the right airport….

  • Sherry

    Love this story! Roy’s Safari, found bags, the Tulip hotel, EFT!! Thanks for sharing it. Things do go right, too!
    Will be eager to see the photos you make!

  • Harold Klein

    Nothing like a little adventure to start and adventure! Good luck Art…sure it will be awesome!! Can’t wait for the images!!

  • I hope the rest goes smoother!

  • Mark W.

    WOW…thank goodness that ended well!!!! I shudder what COULD have happened….

  • Andy

    I was sure this story would go a very bad direction before is ended. I’m glad all ended up well and look forward to hearing more from your trip. Love your accounts from your trips.

  • Richard Wozniak

    I think you got lucky! Weight is always a problem in Africa because it’s a source of extra revenue.!
    I travel to Africa every year at least for wildlife shoots and have a LowePro roller as carry on – like yours always hugely overweight and stacked with expensive glass. The trick is to use a roller not a rucksack as it does not look heavy as it trundles along on its little wheels and so does not attract attention. Heavy rucksacks drag down on your shoulders and you risk being asked to have your bag weighed and/or being put in the hold. (Never agree to this). Bad.
    Another tip is never to leave your camera gear out of direct line of sight and never let anyone carry it for you. Again you run the risk of it disappearing or getting weighed. Would you like to pay for a second seat Sir? Double bad.
    Africa is fabulous and I love it but corruption is rife and things are often chaotic so you cannot rely on luck to get by.


  • β€œThat flight does not exist anymore.”

    What the heck does that even mean? The flight was canceled…somebody lost an
    airplane πŸ™‚

    I get nervous just leaving a compact flash card in the car. I’d hate to think
    what state I’d be in if I left $40k of equipment behind in an airport πŸ™‚

    I have to be honest, when I first read the title of this blog, the first thing I
    thought was that something horrible happened to your gear. Glad to hear everything
    worked out.


  • I hope the rest of the trip is easy going with lot’s of leopards, lions, eagles and other wildlife and birds.
    Looking forward to seeing your images here.

    It’s is encouraging to see that the weight was not a problem. It is great to bring both the 4/600 and 4/200-200 to Africa. This will work for everything from songbirds to elephants and from portraits to landscape shots with the animals in it.


  • Jim Kranick

    No, I’ve never had that said to me.That’s an adventure I could have done without. I hope the rest of the trip goes well. You are one of the people I know who could relax after that experience.