Flying dry

Andrew Donaldson says it is only a matter of time before the govt inflicts a new outrage upon us


MEANWHILE, in other news, it seems that a curb on drinking at airports and even the possibility of wholly “dry” flights could be on the cards for travellers.

Admittedly this nonsense won’t be with us for a while. But the genie is out the bottle, so to speak; a suggestion that passengers be prevented from boozing before flights has been mooted by the new British aviation minister, Lord Ahmad. 

The Tory peer was commenting on calls for a crackdown on the “spirited” behaviour that has led to an increase in disruptions and incidents of air rage, some of which have been so violent that passengers have had to be restrained in their seats with gaffer tape.

All of which has reminded the Mahogany Ridge regulars of the former Nelson Mandela Bay mayor, Danny Jordaan. 

The Safa president’s conspicuous absence from the Port Elizabeth election results centre and reports that he’d put together a legal team to engage with the FBI on his behalf as they continued their corruption probe into Fifa, an investigation that has led to 38 arrests since May last year, has set tongues wagging.

Was Jordaan on the run? Would he too be restrained in his seat the next time he takes a flight? Wearing rendition orange? 

Denials have come from, among others, the Sport and Recreation Minister, Fikile Mbalula, who has charged that any suggestion the PE mayor was some sort of fugitive was a “dirty politics campaign” by the DA.

When he was finally spotted by a reporter, at the PE municipal offices shortly before noon yesterday, Jordaan was asked about the ANC’s poor showing in the elections. He replied, “You don’t win before the match is over.”

Which is true. But back to Lord Ahmad’s plans to stop pre-flight drinking: it is surely only a matter of time before our own government, eager to further annoy the people, decides to run with this folly as well.

Let’s be blunt here. Modern air travel is a nightmare. Passengers are bullied and infantalised by officials from the moment they enter an airport until they exit one at the other end of their journey. It is only by drinking heavily that such ghastly experiences can be endured.

In February 1995, for example, I was flown to Ghana to watch the filming of a rather lame television variety special which featured Yvonne Chaka Chaka miming her hits while fashion designers showed us interesting things that could be done with kente cloth.

The Air Afrique flight to Abidjan, in Côte d’Ivoire, where we were due to catch an air shuttle to Accra, was running late. We were later informed that Winnie Mandela, then the Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, had held up the flight to Johannesburg. 

I never did find out quite how she managed this. But this was the unauthorised trip, you may recall, that she took to West Africa to attend a film festival, an act of defiance that later resulted in her sacking by her estranged husband, Nelson Mandela. 

Anyway, we were stuck in an executive lounge in Johannesburg International for eight hours. A lot of drinking was done. Some of us bravely tried to continue drinking on the flight northwards. 

The cabin crew in business class, nerves worn to a frazzle by the imperious Mrs Mandela and her party’s behaviour on the flight down, were in no mood for a bunch of drunks and it took considerable charm, not to mention a few dollars, to convince them to keep the drinks coming.

I got lost at Abidjan looking for a bar and nearly missed the connecting flight to Ghana. It was a gut-bucket special — you sat where you could. Some of the passengers had livestock with them. Or was I seeing things?

When I finally got to the hotel in Accra I rummaged about in my jacket pockets looking for cigarettes — and made a horrifying discovery: I’d unintentionally brought an assortment of controlled substances into a foreign country.

I’d worn the jacket the weekend before at the two Rolling Stones concerts at Ellis Park. I’d been so bowled over that there was no need for any sort of, let’s just say, chemical assistance, and so had promptly forgotten what I was carrying.

So, what to do, what to do? I could have flushed the lot away. But I did them all instead. When you’re young and foolish, you do that sort of thing. 

Later, for the variety show, I was made to wear a neon green dashiki. Ghanian dignitaries in Italian suits tried not to laugh as they questioned me about Yvonne Chaka Chaka. 

It was quite surreal, like being on drugs. Which may have been the case.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.