Nairobi’s Mombasa road traffic is legendary.
Which is why our phones in the office begin to ring incessantly in the evening when our clients are running late for the evening flights. In addition, and before entering JKIA, all vehicles must go through a security screening yard. The security checks can take upwards of 10 minutes or more because there will be many vehicles dropping passengers to the airport and, the passengers must alight from their vehicles and walk through a manual security scan area as well. Therefore, as a matter of policy and precaution, our clients are well briefed of the need to arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before their flight
But, even with all these precautions in place, inevitably, many of our clients will run late for their flights. Here are some tried and tested actions that we undertake for our clients, and the result is that many of our clients have made it to their flights on time.
The first thing we do is to call the airport to find out about the status of the flight. The station manager of the airline the client is on will usually let us know whether the flight is delayed or on time. On a day when there is unusual traffic on Mombasa road, some amazing airlines such as Emirates will hold their flights for upto 20 minutes to allow their passengers to get to the airport.
Next, we will ensure that we have checked-in the client online. Checking-in online is offered by most of the major airlines and online check-in is available approximately 24hours before your flight departure time. But checking in online will close about an hour before the flight leaves. Sometimes, this is a soft deadline and so we try to checkin the client anyway. If you are an independent traveler, and you do not have a travel agent to check you in, you can do it from your mobile device or laptop. Note that self check-in kiosks are now available at JKIA. Check-in at the kiosks and avoid the check-in counter thus saving time. However, the self check-in kiosk service is only available for use by Kenya Airways, South African Airways and KLM passengers.
Next, we will always advice the client to go straight to the priority check-in line. Elite passengers are usually smaller in number and so If you ask politely and explain the urgency of the situation to an airline official, they will help. If you are one of the last passengers on the aircraft, and all the elite passengers have all boarded, then in most cases, the airline staff will lead you to the priority line. They will also call the gate to let them know that a priority passenger is on the way. The priority facilities are reserved for passengers with elite frequent flier status, first and business class passengers. The service ensures that your baggage is checked in first & fast and you will have priority at the passport control and security checks. Always remember that the boarding for flights begins forty-five minutes to half an hour before the scheduled departure time and so we work backwards to assess whether the client will make it for the flight.
Once the client makes it into the flight, we ensure that the airline‘s system hasn’t recorded the client as a no-show and cancelled the return leg of his/her flight. It is rare that this happens but sometimes it does. It is crucial for us to check this immediately to correct the ‘false’ no-show and maintain the same seat or fare on the return journey.
For elite passengers with an elite frequent flier status, running late for your flight is not a worry. There are numerous options available to you to ensure that you make it in time for your flight. We know that airlines can delay a plane departure for certain elite status flyers or dignitaries. We therefore ensure that we quote our client’s elite flying status when we call the airport, and we would urge independent travelers to do the same.
The Author is the Founder and CEO of Saffara Ltd
This article was published in the East African Newspaper, Monday the 7th of August as "Stuck in traffic? Here is how to catch your flight"