Nortina’s Egyptian Travel Diaries (#AtoZChallenge): “D” is for Delays, Delays, Delays

Note: I had some technical difficulties posting “C” last night, so if you missed that one, click the link at the end of this post. 🙂

I promise you, posts about the specific places we visited in Egypt are coming, eventually, but first we must discuss just how difficult it was to get there.

As I said in “Arrival,” we faced many obstacles. I had no idea what to wear, my visa was denied, we missed the window to book the direct flight, our bags were overweight…

And to top it all off, every single one of our flights was delayed. And they were delayed for the most bizarre of reasons. Let me explain…

Charlotte, NC → JFK

The travel plan was to meet at Mom’s house Friday morning and drive in one car to Charlotte. I came Thursday night because I know how slow I move in the mornings. Brother, who’s always rushing everyone else, was surprisingly late, but when he finally showed up, he herded me and Mom along as if we were the ones behind schedule. Typical.

We still made it to the airport with time to spare, and given how long it took to resolve our overweight bags situation, we were happy to have that buffer time!

We got to our gate a bit early, as the plane scheduled to fly out before ours hadn’t yet begun boarding, so we took that extra time to browse some of the stores in the terminal. I bought a sandwich in a feeble attempt to remedy my headache. When the earlier flight began boarding, we found some available seats and got comfortable.

Unfortunately, our comfort didn’t last long, as Mom received a text that our gate had been changed. Although boarding had been completed, the plane before us was still sitting at the gate, and eventually the answer to why that was came casually walking through the terminal.

The pilot.

“Did they really just board that plane with nobody on to fly it?” I whispered to Mom.

“No way!” she said.

We looked out the window to examine the plane. Sure enough, there was no one in the cockpit. They really did board an empty plane, because the pilot, the copilot, and half the flight crew were all standing at the gate laughing and joking, probably about why they were so damn late. I felt like I was watching an episode of HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant! After the crew went through the doors to get on the plane, I could clearly see the pilot and copilot in the cockpit buckling in and checking all flight deck controls, further confirming my suspicions that they had boarded an empty plane. I’m sure it was full of pissed-off passengers by then. That plane was supposed to leave an hour ago!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stick around to see how the episode concluded because our plane had started boarding just a few feet away at the next gate.

Then came our next delay. After scanning my ticket and walking down the long corridor to the plane, I was just about to board when I heard, “Turn around! Everybody go back! Smoke in the cabin!” Then a stampede of people came flooding out of the plane. Immediately thinking the worst, I turned and ran…well, power walked—my carry-on bag was heavy.

From conversations I pieced together among other passengers who had been aboard, someone had a lithium battery that started smoking. They put it in a cup, and the cup ignited.

So now the plane was surrounded by fire trucks as they tried to extinguish the flames and air out the cabin while we all crowded the gate completely dumbfounded.

After about 20 minutes, what looked like airport security and the fire marshall approached the desk at the gate, and two people were paged. The first person showed up and said, “It wasn’t me. It was the guy next to me.”

The second guy was paged again. “Timothy ___, please come to Gate 42.”

Timothy never showed. If Timothy was the one with the battery, he was long gone, probably halfway to Mexico. I don’t know if Timothy would have been arrested if he did come to the gate. I’m sure what happened was an accident. But I wouldn’t blame him if he did run. Given how short-tempered people have been on planes in recent years, it was probably for the best. We didn’t need any more delays.

After about 45 minutes (by the way, the plane at the other gate was still sitting there, y’all—at that rate, those poor people were never going to make it to the Dominican Republic), our pilot came out and said, “Well, the plane’s fine. No damage. So I’m ready to go if you are!”

“Are you sure?” my brother said jokingly.

The plane might have been fine, but our pilot may have suffered from smoke inhalation or something because the take-off was very wobbly, and when we landed in JFK, we landed hard.

Me standing in front of the #HIAQatar sign (HIA being the abbreviation for Hamad International Airport) and a giant wood sculpture titled “Small Lie” by American artist KAWS

JFK → Doha, Qatar

We didn’t necessarily have a significant delay on this flight. It was just a long layover, which was welcomed given how long it took for us to get there. By this time, my headache was beginning to progress into a full-blown migraine. I took four more Tylenols. Mom and I found a place to eat, and a couple hours later, she bought doughnuts.

Apart from Brother’s and Sister-in-law’s tickets not scanning, the boarding process went smoothly, but we waited forever to take off. Apparently there was a traffic jam of planes on the runway. I peered out the window and counted at least five planes waiting behind us. I’m not sure if this had anything to do with the weather (it was cold and rainy), but it just seemed strange to me that so many planes would be trying to take off at the same time.

When we finally got off the ground, I breathed a sigh of relief. We were in the air. We were almost there. Just one more stop.

Doha, Qatar → Cairo, Egypt

So for those of you who don’t know, Qatar is located east of Egypt on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Yes, we flew past our destination just to turn around and come back. It was another four-hour flight (after a four-hour layover). Mom and the family wanted to explore the airport—buy some duty-free alcohol, take a picture of the giant teddy bear. I, honestly, was exhausted. I wanted to change my clothes, and I wanted to go to sleep. At least my headache was gone.

Boarding the plane involved getting on a shuttle and riding out to the tarmac, where we climbed a tall staircase to board the plane. As soon as I was uncomfortably in my seat, I fell asleep. I might have been asleep an hour, but it was probably only 30 minutes—my concept of time since the pandemic has not been the best. However, once the door was closed and the safety video finished playing, we sat there. And we sat. And we sat.

I drifted in and out of sleep, and each time I woke up, I expected to be in the air. We were still on the ground.

Eventually the pilot came on the PA system to explain the delay. Now I was half asleep when this happened, so I’m not exactly sure what was said. What I heard was that two people had to be removed from the plane. Mom heard two people didn’t make it to the plane. Whatever the reason, their bags had to be removed, and that’s why we were waiting. Given how long we waited at baggage claim at Cairo airport, I imagine there was a ton of luggage they had to sort through just to find those two bags. Once they found them, we were off.

Finally we made it to Cairo. Two hours later than we were scheduled to, but we made it.

Unfortunately, that would not be the end of our travel delays…


“A” is for Arrival
“B” is for Buyer’s Remorse
“C” is for Cruisin’ the River Nile

This April for the A to Z Challenge, I’m sharing my experience of traveling to Egypt last month. These posts likely won’t be in chronological order, depending on what memory each letter strikes up, but if you’d like to follow me on this journey, subscribe below.

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