And I spoke way too soon on Wednesday. Our flight was cancelled again and it looked for a while like we might be stuck in Paris until August 7th. The airline put us on a list for a flight out today, but they suggested that we also go to the ticketing desk and make a new reservation just in case that reservation came around before they could squeeze us on a flight. The problem with that plan? The ticketing office was past the customs gate and Landry couldn’t get through customs without a visa, which they did not seem to want to provide. There were at least 50 screaming passengers from a cancelled flight to Cameroon that couldn’t go back to their point of origin and were being told to just sit tight at the airport. Add to that the 60 passengers that had been with us since Monday and Air France had some very angry people on their hands. Their anger of course did nothing to help convince the airport police to start providing emergency visas for the second day in a row.
Luckily a friend of Landry’s, Ingrid, was flying from Paris to Libreville on Wednesday and they had stopped her at check in and made her reschedule her flight home. She waited for me to come through customs and took me to the ticketing desk. The whole situation was incredibly stressful. I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to book a new flight and even if we could, what were we going to do in the meantime? Camp out in Charles DeGaulle Airport for a week? On top of that, Landry and I were separated and I had both of our passports, which was necessary for the rebooking process. What if I couldn’t get back through security? We would be separated and he’d be REALLY stuck with no boarding pass and no passport. Fortunately, all of my fears were put to rest when I passed back through security without even a question.
Since we had a new confirmed flight and Ingrid had offered to let us stay with her until our flight, we decided to go back downstairs to see if we could get approved for a visa. After waiting about an hour, we found out that they were going to process visas for the whole Gabon group again and put us back into the hotel for another night. The best part besides knowing we didn’t have to camp out in the airport? Breakfast in Paris for the second day in a row J
By the time we came down for dinner Wednesday night there was a sign posted for all of us saying that they were putting us on a flight on Thursday at 2:00pm that was going to take us from Paris to Cameroon and then on to Gabon. That was if the strike was over. While at the airport on Wednesday I had called my friend Erika who is the queen of internet research, if its out there to find, she can find it. She found a few spotted reports, but nothing of great detail (not surprising of news stories coming out of Africa) that the West and Central African air traffic controllers had gone on strike, 24 hour renewable strikes each day, and these strikes had been affecting flights in and out of Gabon and other countries since July 22nd. So, this new flight, in theory, would solve all our travel problems, but only if the strike ended on Thursday.
According to the sign at the hotel we were to have lunch at 11am and leave for the airport at 11:30, but on Wednesday morning when we arrived at the airport the check in lines were really long, so we decided to forgo lunch and head to the airport around 10am. Thank goodness we did this!! For anyone who has ever seen the Philadelphia airport the day before Thanksgiving, multiply that by ten and you’ll come close to beginning to understand the chaos at the airport yesterday morning.
Landry found a woman working for Air France that basically cut us to the front of the line because there was a special check-in counter for people going to Libreville. When we checked in, to our surprise, we were given the last two seats available on the 11am flight. After a two hour delay, which felt like nothing compared to the last three days, we finally were in the air and landed safely in Gabon. Unfortunately, we were the only thing to land safely in Gabon…our bags were safely still in security in Paris.
We drove to Landry’s house with his mom, met a slew of family members including Landry’s absolutely adorably niece Maelys, who he was meeting for the first time as well, and then slept…and slept….and slept. I don’t think I’ve ever slept so much in 24 hours in my life! But now everything is settled, we have our baggage, and the real adventure is set to start!