As recounted by David Ashton
In the 80’s when I was working in Harare in Zimbabwe for SITA, the airlines communications network, I had a friend, Moshe, an Israeli, who was working in the SITA office in Lagos, Nigeria. SITA staff were considered as airline staff for travel purposes and usually got free tickets on business trips, sometimes on personal ones as well. In addition, the fact that the tickets were free meant that you could travel on flights that fare paying passengers could not use. For example, British Airways at one time had a flight that came from London to Harare, offloaded some passengers there early in the morning, and went on to Cape Town in South Africa where it deposited the remainder of the passengers. In the evening of the same day it flew back the same route. Fare paying passengers had to use the services of either Air Zimbabwe or South African Airways to travel between Harare and Cape Town, as they had “Traffic Rights” and British Airways did not. But on a free staff ticket, I once went down to Cape Town one morning on British Airways and had a barbeque with a friend of mine, and flew back in the evening. Usually you would have to route via Johannesburg and you couldn’t do it as a day trip.
Moshe had similar tricks. The now-defunct British Caledonian Airways had a flight that came from London to Lagos via Kano, a city in the north of Nigeria, and Moshe was able to travel on the Lagos-Kano sector of their flights – which meant a great saving of time, as flights to and from Kano were not otherwise very frequent.
So one day Moshe got on their flight from Lagos to Kano, in tropical clothing, with only his tools as he anticipated returning the same day on an internal flight. However, when the plane reached Kano (which is on the edge of the Sahara desert) there was a huge dust storm and the plane could not land there. So it went straight on to London, depositing Moshe there with only his tools and the clothes he was wearing, without a passport, in the middle of the British winter…
Fortunately Moshe’s wife was living in London at the time, and she was able to come and pick him up and vouch for him to the Immigration authorities (I’m sure my friend Moshe’s gift of the gab helped as well) and he got back to Lagos a day or so later. But he told me that next time he used that flight he took his passport with him. Just in case.
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