52 Hours In the Cairo Airport: Preparing for Flight Cancellations - PassPorter.com
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52 Hours In the Cairo Airport: Preparing for Flight Cancellations

by Cheryl Pendry, PassPorter Featured Columnist
Last modified 03-10-2011

PassPorter.com > Articles > International Travel > Traveling  

For the vast majority of us, our stay at an airport is usually just the couple of hours before a flight. Perhaps if your flight out to your holiday destination or back home is delayed, it might be a little bit longer, but fortunately it's rare that you have to spend a night at an airport.

Whenever we've had delayed flights in the past, it's been either down to technical problems with the plane or weather. I never expected in my life that the delays we'd experience would be as a result of a whole political change in a country, but that's exactly what happened to us on our return home from Egypt.

We arrived at Cairo Airport on a Saturday afternoon, knowing that our flight had already left London and should be waiting for us. Unfortunately, our planned flight home coincided with a decision to turn all international flights around, including ours, which was already three hours into its journey to get to us.

The drama didn't end there. Eventually, after finally managing to find another flight out, to Berlin, which was due to depart the following night, that, too was cancelled. We only finally made our escape from Cairo on the Monday evening, when we were allowed to board a flight to Munich with our Berlin boarding passes.

So how did we survive the intervening 52 hours? Honestly? When I look back, I'm not entirely sure, but there were some valuable lessons that we learned during it. With some, we were fortunate with the choices we made, while there were other things that, in hindsight, we wished we'd done or thought about.

Egypt - Cairo Airport photo
Egypt - Cairo Airport

We weren't the only ones spending the night at the airport. - photo by chezp

The first thing we learned was to keep hold of the details of everything we spent while making our alternative way home. We knew that it would be needed for a compensation claim once we were back. Fortunately, I carry a plastic folder with us to keep our documents together, so all the receipts and information we gathered went into this, so we knew where to find them. This made life so much easier, particularly when we reached Munich and discovered that our luggage had taken its own sweet way home. Immediately, we knew where our baggage tags were.

Although it was a nightmare at the time to recover our suitcases when we reached Cairo Airport, it proved to be a godsend to us, as it allowed us access to everything in there. Fortunately, my husband had the foresight to take out the toilet roll that we had in there, just in case of any upset stomachs. It was something we were very glad of during the rest of our stay at the airport. Trust me when I say that it's one of the first things to run out when there are lots of people trapped there.

Sadly, one thing that we didn't think to get out of our suitcases was the phone charger for my BlackBerry. In all honesty, I thought it was in my hand luggage, but I really wished over the remaining time we spent at the airport that I'd double checked and had it with me. With both my BlackBerry and my husband's cell phone running low on charge, we ended up having to use up a chunk of our remaining cash on a multi-charger. It was a great purchase, but one that we could've done without. Note for future trips -- always keep your phone chargers with you and, if it's applicable, an adapter for the country you're visiting. At least that was in our hand luggage with us.

Something else we learned was the importance of keeping some local currency with you right to the airport. With the Internet being shut down by the government, debit and credit card transactions were almost impossible, so the cards we had with us were useless. Of course, usually you'd just go to a cash machine, but even those were soon out of money. Another reason to have cash with you was that the power that it had in Egypt. We quickly discovered the importance of it, as on more than one occasion, people waving large amounts of notes around got themselves to the front of a line.