The cold Johannesburg weather was quite a bother for me in the three days I was there. I just could not wait to get back to the warmer sunny days of Lilongwe. Coming back to Malawi was all I could think about, and flying our own airline, Malawian Airlines, was the icing on the cake.
My uncle dropped me and my son at the airport about three hours before my scheduled flight. I could hardly wait to fly in our state-of-the-art plane back home. I made a tee line to the information counter where a smiling South African lady greeted me with a smile. I leaned forward over her desk and asked at which counter I should check in for the Malawian Airlines flight to Lilongwe. She pressed a few keys on her computer and looked back at me with surprised face: “There is no Lilongwe flight today!” she told me. I almost skipped a heartbeat.
I corrected myself and asked her to check the Blantyre flight after which she also punched her keyboard and asked me: “Ethiopian Airlines?” I politely corrected her, “No, it’s Malawian Airlines”. She giggled and rolled her eyes while pointing at counter 45 as my counter.
Reaching counter 45, another young South African lady greeted me with a smile while she chatted loudly in Zulu to the other lady who operated counter 46.
A printout of my bags was produced and she handed them over to me after she pasted them on our passports, I glanced over them and immediately saw an Ethiopian Airlines sticker. I leaned over and corrected her that I was boarding Malawian Airlines. She said it was Ethiopian Airlines. I must have looked puzzled because she immediately said they are one and same. Some Zulu was exchanged with the other lady on counter 46 and a comical laughter burst out between them as I left the counters, not sure of why I was being boarded on an Ethiopian Airlines flight and not Malawian Airlines.
While boarding the flight, two jovial attendants were at the door welcoming and guiding us to our seats in English, I must have expected at least one Chichewa word, say “takulandirani” or “moni”, but hey, we had to make way for the others behind us. The interior of the plane was just beautiful, very smart and trendy. I picked the green colour that donned the middle seats to be a bit faint for the correct Malawi national flag green. Maybe the seat covers are using a faint green, I told myself as I sat down and prepared my son to be tucked in.
Finally, some Chichewa came through with the lovely female voice welcoming us aboard the Malawian Airlines flight from Johannesburg to Lilongwe via Chileka. I let out a sigh of relief, knowing I was indeed aboard the correct flight after all.
Immediately after the lady made her announcements, a male voice came through and introduced his name which I could not pick as he had a strange accent, I assumed he was Ethiopian and was the captain of the flight. I listened attentively to his pre-flight pep talk as I waited to hear the name of the other pilot with him in the cockpit. I was waiting to hear of a Malawian name like Daniel Phiri or Kondwani Banda. But the captain’s announcement concluded without introducing the Malawian co-pilot, so I figured he ran out of airtime.
A few minutes into the flight, food was served and on the menu was chicken and fish. I asked the flight attendant if I could have some of that chambo. She looked puzzled and said it was hake fish. “Not Malawian fish,” she answered as she laughed.
An offer for a drink was made to me and my son, I naturally asked for a glass of Sobo orange squash for my son and a Carlsberg Chill for me. This was to me, the best way to enjoy a Malawian flight after losing out on chambo to hake fish on our own airline. She said they only had Ceres juice and wines. At the mention of wine, I asked for Linga wine. She replied: “We only stock South African wines”. Sensing I was getting on her nerves with my selections, I asked for water instead which, I thought, was a safer choice.
Some soft music came out of the plane’s sound system. It was a foreign song sung in a dialect I could not understand; I figured it was an Ethiopian song. I immediately thought of our own Wambali’s Zani Muwone or Lawi’s new album to be perfectly suited for our Malawian in-flight music selection.
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