African Safari Misadventure – #2 U.S. Passport Issues
Although we thought we were on the verge of potentially missing our plane our shuttle driver seemed to be driving casually while we were all sweating, hoping against hope that we would make it to the airport by 7 am when we had to check in. We certainly weren’t pre3pared for this African safari misadventure. It was now rush hour when the freeways are usually jammed and going is unusually slow and stop-and-go is the byword instead of the non-rush-hour traffic of 60+ mph.
Arriving at LAX
Amazingly we arrived at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in time, at about a couple of minutes to seven. Once there we met up with the rest of the group. Safari Kay, being the world traveler that she is, went to a special counter for VIP’s or some such other special class of people. The rest of us waited in line, a long line.
One of those in our group, Cynthia, had arrived early and had already checked in. She was one of the few in the group who had been on other African safaris with Safari Kay and knew exactly what to do. The rest of us waited a few minutes until Kay checked in and came to guide us to the right place for us to check in. One of us in the group tried to use the self-check-in device, but it wouldn’t accept them. Another tried the same thing and that didn’t work for them either.
U.S Passport Issues
Kay called an assistant and she tried to check us in. The assistant had no luck either. All the while many other people came, checked in, and left while we waited for the assistant to do her magic. Well this time her magic did not work and only two of our group of eight was able to check-in. Kay went to another check-in counter to see if they could determine what the problem was.
One clerk at the counter tried to check us in, but was having problems. Somehow the computer system would not accept our passports. The last thing we needed was U.S. Passport issues as we were late for the plane. She conferred with another clerk at that counter and they both seemed baffled, then calls were made to someone by one of the counter clerks to find out what the problem was. We waited, and waited. No results.
Others came and went, but not us
Other travelers came and went with no problem. We were unable to find out exactly what the problem was that kept our group from checking in. After waiting for about twenty minutes we were moved to a more experienced counter clerk who seemed to know more how the system worked. Soon both the former clerk and the one handling our tickets were trying all sorts of things to get the system to accept us.
Kay tried to solve the problem
During this time Kay was trying to get to talk to the supervisor of the check-in clerks or at least have them contact them to resolve the problem. After waiting well over a half hour we were told our U.S. Passports had issues and were on some sort of list. We never found out what kind of list we were on, but whatever it was even the attendants who were still trying to get us accepted didn’t know either.
Passengers were already boarding the plane
It was getting late, real late, passengers were boarding and we still were waiting, way over an hour for the computer system to accept us. None of us had any passport problems that we knew of and all of us had had valid passports, most of us for dozens of years. I had renewed my passport over two years previously right before a previous Tanzania African safari I had gone on in 2008 with Safari Kay. I had no U.S. Passport issues then and neither had any of those in our group back then and some were on this flight with us.
The computer kept rejecting us
No one seemed to know what the problem was, why the system wouldn’t accept our tickets and reservations. Apparently the attendants could not get permission to let us on the plane and we were told there was nothing they could do. Safari Kay complained again, but it seemed to no avail. No one she was able to talk to seemed to be able to help us. We were now almost sure to miss the plane.They had been loading for at least a half hour while we had been waiting to be cleared and accepted by the system. This was the first leg of a long flight from Los Angeles to Detroit, then to Amsterdam, and finally to Tanzania Africa.
We might be “up the proverbial creek”
Missing this flight would cause havoc with catching the rest of the flights, which we would certainly miss and ruin our tight safari schedule. Only Kay and Cynthia of our group of eight were able to check in with no problems. They couldn’t leave without us because we’d be stranded and only Kay knew the complete detailed instructions and all the little intricacies that had to be coordinated to make the entire safari adventure work as planned. We’d be “up the proverbial creek without a paddle.”
All of us were on one reservation, but each had their own ticket. It would never work if just the two left and we couldn’t go. What to do! Their computer system was not accepting us at the check-in counter. No one knew what the problem was. One of the clerks tried to override something in the system to allow us to be accepted, but that didn’t work. Everything they tried to get the system to accept us was a failure, a total and complete failure, after maybe an hour of trying to coax the computer system to accept us.
We might miss our flight
We couldn’t believe this was happening. We had all made reservations and paid for our tickets months in advance of our flight. There had been no problems we were aware of, yet the system would not accept us. Safari Kay had done exactly the same thing with several safari groups of travelers before, including the previous one I had been on in spring of 2008.
We were dreading the final call for passengers of Delta Airlines flight 1606, our flight, as final boarding time was quickly arriving. We were sure to miss our flight and the safari.
Finally their computers gave us approval
Then it seemed like a miracle happened when suddenly; after all the finessing trying to get the system to accept us, one of us was finally accepted into the system. Whatever the U.S. Passport issues were they apparently evaporated just in time. Even the clerks were amazed and didn’t know why, but that was a really good sign for us that even one person was accepted. Little by little over the next 20 minutes or so the system started to accept the remaining handful of us.
We didn’t find out why now we were suddenly being accepted after being rejected before. The clerks inputting the information didn’t know why either, but we were all very relieved. But by now we may have been too late for the flight; however we kept our fingers crossed. After all of us had been accepted into the system by the computer and gotten our boarding passes we sighed a big relief.
Running to catch the plane
We all ran down the long concourse to get on the plane. The attendants at the x-ray machines let us in the line and we waited, like what seemed like forever, while the attendants checked all our carry-on luggage. After passing the x-ray machine scans we started running to the boarding gate, which was a long way away. We finally reached the gate.
There was no line of passengers waiting to board the plane. The entire area was empty save one lone counter clerk. It seemed either the plane had left or everyone had already boarded. The attendant there told us to hurry and board the plane.
Struggling with carry-on bags
We did, being the last of the passengers to board the plane. As soon as were all on board they immediately shut the door. Our carry-on luggage was a problem; just about all the overhead space was taken. I had my camera and two heavy bulky laptop computers with me in my carry-on bag and struggled to stuff them under the seat ahead of me. Others had similar problems, but had no expensive electronics with them like I did.
Actually the laptops I had were to be gifts to one of our safari guides and a camp manager who had been so kind and gracious to us on our 2008 safari. In the part of Africa we were going to it was extremely rare for most people to have a laptop or any computer, since that was a pure luxury very few could afford, let alone get and pay for an internet connection. But in spite of that, technology somehow finds a way to creep in no matter where.
One of the laptops was going to one of the men who worked at the luxury tented camp on the Serengeti where we would again spend a few nights out there with the wild animals.
They had generators and solar power used to supply electricity for the camp. And being out in the middle of the Serengeti with no cities or population around, except lots of wild creatures, there was no normal internet connection. But amazingly they had a big satellite dish and were using it to connect to the internet for communication and other purposes.
Away we go
Almost as soon as we were buckled in our seats the pilot announced we would be taking off shortly. We all breathed a big sigh of relief. The plane took off shortly thereafter and headed for Detroit, our first stop before heading to Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
We never found out what the problem was that kept us from getting into the system. We also didn’t know how it was we finally did get accepted. No one could tell us. It seems no one knew. Maybe it was because of all the phone conversations the various check-in clerks had that helped. But for whatever transpired that finally allowed us to be accepted into the system and ultimately on to the plane we were all thankful. We felt lucky everything turned out ok. We were now on our way on the first leg of our trip to an exciting African Safari.