Of COVID Requirements And Cancelled Flights

A few months ago I made an impulsive decision to wrap up everything in South Africa and explore the possibility of living in different African cities. So 3 weeks ago,I finally booked my flight to Tanzania through RwandAir. Naturally that meant that I will have a connecting flight in Kigali , Rwanda. With most countries have relaxed their COVID testing entry requirements I didn’t think that I would have to do a PCR test for a transit period of 4 hours. I was armed with my vaccination certificate which Tanzania was very happy to accept. I have had all of my Pfizer shots including the booster shot administered.

There was no communication of PCR tests needed for Rwanda through any of my flight reminders. I guess I should have checked too. I had a 3am flight from Johannesburg to Kigali. Luckily I arrived at the airport with plenty time to spare and I was hit by the harsh reality of being required to produce a negative PCR test if I was to be allowed to check in and board my flight.

Coincidentally or luckily; whichever word is suitable here. There was a person who is known to the airport staff for providing the COVID testing service 24 hours a day, but the catch was that this service costs five times the normal price. A lot of us had no choice but to pay and get out test results back within 30 minutes. And believe me when I say that there was a whole lot of us who didn’t know that we had to have a PCR test to transit through Rwanda. Almost 90% of the passengers on that flight had their COVID tests within that window of time before check in closed.We got our negative results and we were allowed to check in and board. That was the FIRST hurdle for some of us.

The SECOND hurdle was tackled on arrival in Kigali, when an American couple and I received emails that our connecting flight to Kilimanjaro had been cancelled 20 minutes before we landed. Now you can imagine the stress of trying to find out why and if we can be accommodated on another flight. We spoke to a manager who told us that he will sort it out. He left to go to the reservation office to get us new boarding passes for a flight that will be leaving for Dar Es Salaam in 4 hours. That guy disappeared and we never saw him again. We had to talk to 2 more people who assured us that he would be back but nothing happened until we spoke to a customer care agent who was just passing by. She helped us get boarding pass for a flight to Dar Es Salaam and a connecting flight from Dar to Kilimanjaro Airport via Precision Air.

We had to do a lot of pestering to make sure that our bags had the correct destination tags and that we had proof of our flight with Precision Air. That proof was a picture of the consultant’s computer screen. In Dar Es Salaam we had no problems, we checked in just fine. The 16 hour journey was completed in Arusha with no further hurdles.

My friends picked me up from Kilimanjaro International Airport and we drove 52km to Arusha my final destination. Even though the journey had some bumps here and there I was quite comfortable in all my flights. I had entire rows to myself on the RwandaAir flights so more leg room and free movement.

Hopefully the way my journey started is not how it’s going to be while I travel throughout East Africa and West Africa.


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