Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Flight Reflections

Our flight:
We are both experienced international travelers. However for our flight moving us to Cameroon, we were also taking our dog. With great fortune, we were booked on Air France with a single layover in Paris.

We were quoted $200 USD for the dog. We were also checking in five boxes. Air France allows international travelers to check in two items up to 50 lbs for no additional fee. We did our best to maximize the weight distribution. At the airport the Air France staff allowed us to open our boxes and shift weight around to fully maximize our space and weight allowances. This reduced one box from just over 70 lbs (to 70 lbs) and another from just over 50 lbs (to an even 50). With current rates at $100 USD for being over 50 lbs but under 70 lbs, we needed to pay $100. For the extra check-in, a 70 lb box there was a fee of $200 (extra bag) + $100 for being over 50 lbs.

The Air France staff again were helpful in doing the math to see if they could play the numbers. Every calculation came out the same: $400 for the bags + $200 for the dog. Interestingly, in Paris they were quoting €200 Euros for each extra bag. One last note about the helpfulness of the staff. On the phone we were told we'd have to collect all our bags and the dog. But a supervisor came by and checked three bags all the way through to Douala. Very helpful...

We departed from Dulles International. Our scheduled departure time was 8:55 pm. They planned to start boarding at 8:05 pm. Both were on time.

We were there to check-in three hours early. We arrived at 6 pm and it took us about 45 minutes to check-in. They held onto Jordan's crate and we walked her to the end of the terminal, to a pet walk area. Trixy had already given Jordan her some sort of doggy valium, it was beginning to show. Her forward gait was good, though she tended to drift. However, sitting down or standing up seemed a bit more problematic - as did any other side to side movement.

We took her to the check in counter at 7:35. They put her crate on a dolly as we walked her to the end of the terminal where security went through her crate. She walked in quietly and lay down - looking resigned.

Trixy and I then went through security and proceeded to our gate. We were there with time to spare so we walked to "5 Guys" for a bite to eat. Google had provided free internet in association with Boingo, so we checked email and Facebook. We got back to our gate just as our section was boarding. So yes, my last American meal was a little cheese burger & fries from 5 Guys.

The flight to Paris was uneventful. Thankfully this was a modern plane and we each had our own entertainment screen. I started to watch "Julie & Julia" but it was a bit slow moving for me. So I switched to "Love Actually". I SO enjoy this movie - even after several times seeing it. Dinner was during the movie and afterwards I did my best to sleep for a couple of hours.

The flight to Paris is about 7 hrs and there is a six hour time change. We landed pretty much on time at 11 am. We went through passport control to baggage claim and retrieved our two boxes. Jordan was in her crate at the other end, by the exit. We had two baggage carts and wheeled them from Terminal 2E to 2C. Its a pretty good (read LONG) walk.

Once there we had to check-in again. Fortunately no more fees as we had paid those at our departure airport. But it was far more chaotic and we were watching our time tick away. We finally go some one to check us through, waiting for staff to come and get Jordan. Once they did, we proceeded through security and do our boarding gate. Our flight was scheduled at 1:50 pm. We went down the jetway about 1:40 - to a bus, which took us across the tarmac to the plane.

Once on the plane I began to relax. It was still quite some time before we took off. I think we left about an hour late. The flight to Douala was also uneventful. I watched "Star Trek". The flight is about 6.5 hours. We landed about an hour late and the AC was pumping out of the plane's system as we walked up the jetway. Once inside the terminal we were hit with the heat and humidity.

Ah, yes, welcome to Douala Cameroon!!

We were met at Passport control by Pastor Nlend, who stayed close to us all the way through the chaos of baggage claim and customs control. To my great relief Jordan finally emerged - and our boxes also began to appear.

Pastor Nlend had a driver and a Prado. We stuffed the boxes and bags through the back door and tied the dog's crate to the roof and so began the drive to Buea. I think we arrived pretty close to midnight.