Tuesday, April 20, 2010




Posted Saturday, April 17 2010 at 21:00

It was hard not to notice the burly man lying on his back with his bag for a pillow at Unit 1 of the international departures terminal at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi Saturday.


Matthew Stevens left Molo at 3 a.m. on Friday and arrived at JKIA just in time for his 10 a.m. flight to France from where he would connect to London.

That did not happen because a volcano erupted in Iceland on Wednesday night, and its spewing ash was paralysing air transport.

Mr Stevens told the Sunday Nation he could not afford to pay for accommodation at a hotel in the city and with about 30 other stranded passengers spent the night in the hard plastic seats in the departure terminal.

Plans scuttled

Mr Stevens is among thousands of passengers worldwide whose plans were scuttled as they remain grounded by the numerous cancellations of flights into and out of Europe.

“Even if I get to France, I still cannot go on to London so I could still get stuck there,” Mr Stevens said.

He has opted to return to Molo where he said his wife runs a children’s home.

Even as he prepared to leave the airport, other passengers were arriving to begin the long wait after checking out of the hotels the airlines had paid for over the last two days.

Michael Gallacher from Scotland told the Sunday Nation he was among passengers who were to board a KLM flight to Amsterdam on Thursday night.

But his party noticed something was wrong when they arrived at JKIA.

“The first thing we noticed was that there was no check-in. We asked someone as we had just been on a nine-hour bus journey from Moshi and knew nothing, and that’s when we were told what’s happening,” said William Brown, an Irishman who lives in Germany.

All the passengers booked on the Amsterdam flight were then taken to a hotel in the city, but the airline said yesterday morning it would not be paying for any additional nights they would have to stay in Nairobi.

And there was more bad news. A friend they had sent to the airline’s desk came back with the news that they would have to take care of all their own needs henceforth.

“I should be at work on Monday, but we have no idea when we are leaving,” said Mr Gallacher, who had accompanied his mother to a wedding in Nairobi and then to the Maasai Mara.