This is the sixth report in a series covering my trip to Europe and Africa around New Year's. The trip involved three nested itineraries (which turned into four). A OneWorld roundtrip itinerary from the US to Milan, a Tunisair roundtrip itinerary from Milan to Tunis, Tunisia, and a Star Alliance roundtrip itinerary from Tunis to Windhoek, Namibia. The return portion of the Star Alliance itinerary would turn into a one-way itinerary on Qatar Airways due to South African Airways delays (hot weather), horrible customer service by South African Airways and United Airlines, and a cancellation of the remainder of the Star Alliance itinerary. I submitted a claim to World Nomads travel insurance for the Qatar Airways ticket I had to buy because I had faced a 24 hour delay by Star Alliance. World Nomads rejected the claim (as well as my appeal). According to them, they're off the hook unless the "common carrier" is completely shut down for 24 hours due to weather or a labor strike. The verbiage in the policy doesn't include "common carrier" though. It's ridiculous to think that if your airline operated any flight anywhere in the world during your 24 hour delay, World Nomads wouldn't have to honor the contract. I submitted a complaint to the California Department of Insurance, but they don't actually do anything besides forward the information to the insurance company, who had already ruled on it anyway. My only recourse left is a small claims lawsuit, which I'm considering. I can't recommend using World Nomads travel insurance. I've bought five travel insurance policies through them. This is the first time I made a claim and it was not a good process.
The OneWorld itinerary was an open jaw from Chicago to Milan in Economy, and Milan to San Diego in Business. The total cost was 63,000 AAdvantage miles and $84.10. Normal cost would be 70,000 miles (20,000 for the outbound in Economy and 50,000 for the inbound in Business). However, I was able to get 10% back thanks to my Citi AAdvantage MasterCard.
The roundtrip cost for the Tunisair ticket was $182.48, bought through Vayama.
The roundtrip cost for the business class Star Alliance ticket was 70,000 United MileagePlus miles and $135.00. On the surface, this is an incredible value. However, as I'll explain later, my faith in Star Alliance has been completely shattered and I don't think I'll ever take advantage of this intra-Africa MileagePlus fare again.
————— Tunis to Istanbul (Turkish Airlines Business): http://flight-report.com/en/report-13349.html ————— Istanbul to Kinshasa (Turkish Airlines Business): http://flight-report.com/en/report-13576.html ————— Kinshasa to Johannesburg (South African Airways Business): You Are Here ————— Johannesburg to Windhoek (South African Airways Business) ————— Windhoek to Johannesburg (South African Airways Business) ————— Johannesburg to Lagos (South African Airways Business): Cancelled Flight ————— Lagos to Istanbul (South African Airways Business): Cancelled Flight ————— Istanbul to Tunis (Turkish Airlines Business): Cancelled Flight
———- Tunis to Milan Malpensa (Tunisair Economy): No Show
——————– Johannesburg to Doha (Qatar Airways Business) ——————– Doha to Milan Malpensa (Qatar Airways Business)
—– Milan Malpensa to Miami (American Airlines Business) —– Miami to Chicago O'Hare (American Airlines First) —– Chicago O'Hare to San Diego (American Airlines First)
There's no formal path for transit passengers at FIH. So here's what happened. I first explained to the immigration officer that I was a transit passenger connecting to South African Airways. So he walks me from the immigration counter over to the South African check in counter and I think that's the end of it. No. He talks to someone at the check in counter for a while, then we go back out of the check in area to this more lobby-like area and go to a South African ticketing office and he tells me to stand in the line and then he walks away. I get to the front of the line and the guy (actually pretty friendly) asks me for my "ticket" so I hand him a print out of my itinerary and he checks some list and then tells me to go back over to the check in desk. To get to the check in desk you have to pass through a checkpoint and the officer there is asking me for a "Go-Pass" and I have no idea what this means. The officer and a nearby tout start to explain that I need to buy a $50 Go-Pass from this office on the other side of the lobby. I immediately think this is some sort of scam and I just need to put up some token resistance to get past it. So I tell the officer, in French, that I don't understand and that the guy at the ticketing desk told me to go over there (pointing to the check-in desk). Doesn't work. So I said it in English thinking that maybe he'll think I'm too hopeless to communicate with and just let me through. Doesn't work. At this point, another passenger tells me this is something that everyone has to do and I'm coming to the realization that I'm going to have to buy this stupid Go-Pass. So I walk over to one of the offices (there were two) with the tout tagging along and buy this $50 Go-Pass and pay another $6 for a departure tax. I walk back over to the checkpoint with these forms and the guy lets me through. The tout was telling me how he was my friend and maybe I could help him out, but I've heard it a million times and was in no mood to shell out any more cash. They didn't allow the tout past the checkpoint for the check-in area. As I was waiting to check-in, I saw almost everyone holding Go-Pass receipts, even people with DRC passports, so I knew it wasn't an informal scam, but still a very annoying cost to be blindsided with. They checked Go-Passes and tax receipts before going out through passport control and security, and again on the tarmac. So it wasn't just a matter of getting past that first checkpoint. I emailed United Airlines to request a refund and explained that they should've collected these taxes when I bought the ticket or at least given me a heads-up. That was over a six weeks ago and I still haven't gotten a response. Standard United customer service.
I made my way over to the check-in desk and managed to figure out that the business class line was on the far right even though it wasn't marked at all. I was third in this line and it took about half an hour from getting in line to finishing check in.
Some more shots of the check-in area.
After check-in I headed to passport control and the security check (and had my Go-Pass verified again).
Like most African airports of this size, there's only one waiting area for all the flights. Ours was the only one leaving around this time though.
Future rendering of this terminal I assume. Time will tell if this pans out.
There was this coffee shop in the rear part of the waiting area.
My French is terrible, but I think this says something along the lines of "We're building an all new business lounge for you. We hope to have you with us here next time." Please correct me.
The departures waiting area is adjacent to the immigration area. A bus will take all the passengers from an arriving aircraft to the door of the immigration area, then back up about 50 feet to get in front of this door for the departures area. Everyone has their boarding passes scanned at the desk inside, then proceeds onto the bus and over to their plane that likely just arrived. I tried to be one of the first people outside so I'd have time to snap some pics outside before getting on the bus.
Congo Airways A320.
After getting off the bus, everyone had to have their tax forms and Go-Passes verified before getting on the aircraft.
In the lower left of this photo you can see everyone queuing to have their tax forms and Go-Passes checked before proceeding towards the aircraft.
View of the old terminal building from the top of the staircase.
Shot of the aircraft before I stepped inside.
South African has a pretty decent short haul hard product, although there's no IFE.
The meal service seemed pretty standard. They somehow forgot to bring me a main dish, but it wasn't a big deal. They prepared the braised lamb for me after I reminded them and they apologized sincerely, which was nice.
No jetbridge for us. Snapped this pic from the top of the staircase.
Deplaning and heading for the bus.
After we got inside I followed the signs for transit passengers, got through passport control and security, then headed for the Baobab Lounge.
Kinshasa - FIH
Johannesburg - JNB
The onboard product was decent, nothing spectacular. The seats are pretty nice for short haul business despite the lack of IFE. The real story with this flight was the airport experience. I don't fault them for not having a dedicated transit path because very few people probably transit through here. However, being forced to pay $56 in taxes before I was allowed to check in was not an enjoyable experience. The legit airlines, like South African, that fly out of FIH should figure out some way to collect this taxes when tickets are purchased, not when people show up at the airport. I asked United over six weeks ago to address this issue and refund the taxes to me and of course they haven't responded, not even with a refusal.
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