Nigel Short was not planning to take a private plane to Victoria Falls when he arrived at JNB. But that’s what he ended up getting.
Initially, the former World Chess Champion finalist was told he was going to be one of only 4 pax on a 737 flight to Victoria Falls. As it turned out, he was the only one.
"I went to check in and they said don't be late because we only have 4 passengers," he told TODAY.com. "So, I got to my gate on time and there was no one there. I was uncomfortable because I thought maybe I made a mistake or arrived too early." Short then proceeded to go back to the main terminal to double-check his gate information. "The gate listed on my ticket was correct, so I went back 4 or 5 times and there was still no sign of anyone."
Eventually the crew for his UM flight did arrive and to his great surprise, they told him he would be the only passenger on board that day.
"I fly a lot and have been to well over 100 countries. And once in a while you're on a flight with not many passengers," he said. "But, there's a difference when you're the only passenger."
The airline waived traditional pre-boarding routines like letting first class pax or people needing assistance on 1st. But, Short revealed, they did complete their full safety demonstration and were "very attentive."
Once on board, Short opted not to sit in his assigned aisle seat, but moved to a window to see the view. And though he had the whole 105 seat aircraft to himself, he didn't ask for an upgrade. "They had one guy who was sitting there that was staff. So, I just stayed in economy."
Short had no service complaints. "I was served by 2 ladies and all of the announcements were directed to me," he said. "They would say things like, 'Mr. Short, we're beginning our descent.'" Upon landing, Short was escorted to the arrivals hall to top off the experience.
"I've been on other private planes and small planes, but there were more passengers on those. I'm amazed they didn't cancel it." Many others wondered the same, prompting the airline to respond to the news outlet NewsDay.
"Please be advised that the aircraft in question operated Victoria Falls-Bulawayo then Johannesburg and it became necessary for operational reasons to position the aircraft to Victoria Falls to operate a scheduled flight Victoria Falls-Harare," the airline said.
Short joked that he was "effectively just the luggage," but wanted to tell people that he hired the jet himself. And though he thought just visiting Victoria Falls would have been the experience of a lifetime, it turned out the flight that got him there was the bigger story. "The Falls were great. But, I can't imagine I'll have such an experience like the flight ever again."