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ORAC
23rd Nov 2006, 05:15
The Times (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,173-2466817,00.html): This is your captain speaking . . . I'm just raising the cash to get us home

An airline pilot was cheered by passengers after he raided the takings of the bar and used his own money to pay the fees demanded by Senegal airport officials before they would allow the jet to fly home.

Captain John Lawrence was told to find two million francs (almost £2,000) by Dakar airport officials before the First Choice Airways jet was permitted to take off. The 204 passengers were trapped on the plane for three hours as Mr Lawrence, 37, made repeated attempts to raise the money demanded by the authorities. Flight FCA713 had landed at Dakar to refuel for its journey to Bristol after it had been unable to find supplies before leaving Banjul airport in Gambia. After the refuelling was complete officials at the airport made unexpected demands for a number of airport fees.

Mr Lawrence said yesterday: “I went to the cash machine in the terminal but it would not allow me to use my card. So I pulled together the cash float that we always carry together with my cash and travellers cheques and I asked the first officer for all the money he had.” After cashing all the travellers’ cheques he went to pay the fees only to discover that the airport would accept only the local currency. He then had to return to the airport terminal to have the money converted. Three hours later he was back aboard the Boeing 757. However, by then it was dusk and the airport authorities demanded a further £200 to switch on the runway lights.

“I said to the head stewardess that we would have to take the money from bar takings of the outward-bound flight,” Captain Lawrence said. “Then it was back to the terminal to get it changed. It was an interesting few hours but the passengers were great. I made the announcements about what was happening from inside the cabin and they were cheering. If it had got any worse I would probably have had to go through the cabin with a hat asking for donations.”

But the passengers’ woes were far from over as the delay in Senegal meant that it was too late to land at Bristol. Instead the jet was diverted to Cardiff and the exhausted passengers were taken by coach to their destination. The scheduled six-hour journey ended six hours late at Bristol in the early hours of yesterday.

Terry and Sue Hague, who were returning from his daughter’s wedding, said that their fellow passengers began a lively discussion on what additional charges the airport might impose. Mr Hague, 62, a project manager for a housing trust from Warwick, said: “The atmosphere was actually quite jovial on board but all the passengers were talking about how we were being held to ransom. There was also sorts of rumours flying about. Some people said that the airport would make us stay the night in Dakar and pay £200 each for a hotel room.”

Mr Hague and his wife, a 48-year-old practice manager for a law firm, said that the passengers were amazed to learn that the airport had demanded cash for refuelling. “You have got to admire the pilot for his initiative,” Mr Hague said. “When we finally took off the captain explained what had happened. It was certainly a great adventure and something to tell our friends.”

First Choice Airways said last night that it was holding an inquiry into why the pilot had been asked personally to pay the charges. “We had spoken to Dakar several days earlier to say that we would be refuelling,” a spokeswoman said. “Normally there is no requirement to pay at the time because it is handled for us by a pan-African air-traffic-control company.”

Flightrider
23rd Nov 2006, 06:54
Top marks to the crew, but this is by no means the first time that this has happened. I was a passenger on an FCA flight from Banjul to LGW back in February which had exactly the same problem - no fuel at Banjul, so we went for a tech-stop at Dakar in the middle of the night. The Dakar ground agents would not accept the Captain's credit card for payment of fuel or landing fees and it turned into an unholy ruck with over two and a half hours on the ground at Dakar (after a four-hour initial delay due tech).

The MAN-based Captain on that particular sector was absolutely superb - he did his level best to keep people up to speed on what was happening (although it was a shame that his excellent PR skills were not mirrored by those of the cabin crew whilst he was absent from the aircraft trying to sort the problem out). However, one can't help but think that FCA need some slightly more robust procedures in place for such events - that's now twice to my certain knowledge that this has happened, and fuel shortages in Banjul are regrettably not uncommon.

XXTSGR
23rd Nov 2006, 08:13
I've had similar problems in supposedly "civilised" places. Anywhere in Italy always gets me worried having had to pay cash in Pisa, Palermo and Catania.

Tolsti
23rd Nov 2006, 13:11
I assume the captain asked for, and got, an official receipt??... hell of a claim to get through the bean counters without one!!

rotornut
23rd Nov 2006, 14:00
This is your captain speaking...
I'm just raising the cash to get us home

By David Brown

An airline pilot was cheered by passengers after he raided the takings of the bar and used his own money to pay the fees demanded by Senegal airport officials before they would allow the jet to fly home.

Captain John Lawrence was told to find two million francs (almost £2,000) by Dakar airport officials before the First Choice Airways jet was permitted to take off. More... (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2466817,00.html)

55yrsSLC_10yearsPPL
23rd Nov 2006, 14:29
Ah well, the far corners of the globe !

Last year I paid in Jalalabad landing fees for an IL-76 :
US $ 157.00 in cash
One par of sunglasses
A Swiss pen knife

I got some freshly baked bread as change and a hand written receipt on a Red Cross flight plan, the only piece of paper available in the tower.

Taildragger67
23rd Nov 2006, 15:41
Heard a story some years back of a 747 capt - think it was QF or CX - having to put enough juice for a jumbo on his gold Amex; can't recall the details but I think it was after a divert and they figured they wouldn't have enough juice to get to destination and the company didn't have a fuel account in that country and there was no company card on board, so he rang Ops and allowed him to put it on his personal card.

Hope he got the Membership Rewards for it!!

Howard Hughes
23rd Nov 2006, 16:47
I've had similar problems in supposedly "civilised" places. Anywhere in Italy always gets me worried having had to pay cash in Pisa, Palermo and Catania.
Place your cash in this brown paper bag Mr XXTSGR...;)

Piltdown Man
24th Nov 2006, 14:58
This is why this part of the "Third World" will find it really difficult to catch up with the "First". Greedy, incompetent and corrupt are just some of their more pleasant attributes. But what really bugs me is that countries like this to be treated as equals when they are clearly not.

TightSlot
26th Nov 2006, 17:23
Uli Derickson had to pay for fuel in order to enable her own hijack to continue!! A very brave woman - see HERE (http://doney.net/aroundaz/celebrity/derickson_uli.htm)

WHBM
26th Nov 2006, 19:18
This has happened many times before. Even pax have bailed out the situation once known.

My expectation is that none of the money will make its way back into Dakar Airport formal accounts.

BEagle
26th Nov 2006, 19:30
Many a time I've had to stage through that outpost of greed known as Dakar...

Usually Air Afrique want the handling fees in US $ rather than CFAs - and it was always a sum which meant that were unlikely to be able to give any change. About US $865 as I recall? But a polite smile and the odd handshake works wonders - as does a "Ca va, M'sieur" on the radio on the way in.

And if you stay the night, find the French run restaurant on the headland which serves garlic-infused prawns which are like baby alligators! With a crisp dry wine and some crusty rolls - formidable!

CargoOne
27th Nov 2006, 10:54
Not a big surprise. Happened to us many times in Africa, Middle-East and even Europe. Everything is arranged on credit basis through the agent, confirmed in written, aircraft lands and.... airport, handlers and fuellers asking for cash. Credit cards not accepted or rejected.
So this is the reason why we now carrying cash sufficient to pay at least one turnaround (landing fees, handling and fuel) as a back-up onboard of each aircraft.

Waldo
27th Nov 2006, 20:35
I had the same problem in Dakar a few years ago. Diverted from BJL due WX in the middle of the night.
Landed in Dakar and was asked for lots of cash for "handling fees". I told them about twenty times I didnt have any cash only a credit card and in the end they gave up and didnt charge me. I think that the thought of putting up with 235 pax in the terminal for a very long time put them off.

TwinHueyMan
16th Dec 2006, 21:23
Similar but not quite as enthralling situation happened outside of Fort Campbell KY a while back... doing an acceptance flight on an old Blackhawk our unit bought when we stopped at a small airport north of the base to get gas (the units at campbell were deployed, so no gas services)... nice gentleman poured 300 gallons in and took us inside to pay, unfortunately he wasn't quite proficient with the card machine and the support center for his machine was closed for the day already, and naturally our government gas card didn't work... an hour into the process, looking at weather moving in between us and home, with one guy on the phone with the fuel card support, my buddy Jim asked if they took Visa and reached for his wallet. Everyone thought he was joking, until he called his wife and read her quite a line... "Hey honey, a $1300 bill might show up on the credit card, don't worry I'll get the money back".

Needless to say, her response was not very nice and the wallet went back into his pocket.

Got the card working and left, another crew did the same routine on another bird the next day, including the "Do you take Diners Club" bit.

Hostage takers, those airport crews!

-Mike