Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Trying to Go on R&R

I got up this morning, grabbed my backpack, and headed for the air terminal here at Kandahar Air Field, intending to go home on R&R.  It didn't quite work out that way.  The reason?  Dust.

Yesterday, we had a big dust cloud move in early in the day.  It looked like fog - a gritty whitish-gray mass that settled over the base and gradually got more dense as the day went on.  This morning, it was still there.  Our group of traveller wanna-be's trooped over to the KAF airfield at 8 am to get checked in for the flight.  It was cold - there was ice on the ground outside the terminal, and for some reason that only makes sense to the military, we were not allowed to go inside for over two hours.  (For all of you who gripe about United Airlines' crappy treatment of prisoners - er, customers, at least they let you stand around inside a warm terminal while they muck up your flight).  Eventually, we got inside and discovered that there wasn't really any heat inside, either, so it didn't make a lot of difference where we were kept.

But as we stood around shivering, I watched the dust cloud get thicker and thicker.  Our plane was delayed, then delayed again, in the hopes that the air would start to clear.  No luck.  Somebody explained that planes have to have a minimum of 800 meters visibility to land.  Our visibility ranged between 400-600 meters.  In other words, about a quarter of a mile, give or take.

Finally, at about 4:30, they gave up and cancelled the flight.  A group of four of us hightailed it over to our office compound and got on the phone to our travel office.  Those guys worked miracles revising our tickets.  I'm pretty happy with mine: they have me flying on Lufthansa tomorrow, which is much better than United, and it breaks my long overseas flight up into two sections.  Now if they can just get me an aisle seat ...

Those tickets still depend on tomorrow's weather.  I hear that it's supposed to be a bit clearer.  The air service (a charter group) is arranging to fly two planes in tomorrow to fly out both today's and tomorrow's passengers.  A good thing, since both flights were over-booked anyway.

So.  With a little luck, at this time tomorrow I should be in Dubai, waiting to board a flight that will take me home.  I'm ready!

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