It was nuts in Abidjan for those 12 days.
One day we had one of the 767s repossessed in Paris.
Another day we had a hajj flight have to divert to N'Djamena, Chad because the Sudan wouldn't allow the flight in its airspace due to over $1 million in upaid overflight charges. The plane didn't have enough fuel to fly around Chad, and once it landed the pilots didn't have any cash to buy the extra fuel needed to return. I can't remember how we solved that one.
And another day, we had the pilots and many employees protesting outside the Air Afrique headquarters in downtown Abidjan because they heard we were furloughing upwards of half the workforce for three months to preserve cash. The laws in Cote D'Ivoire didn't allow anyone to loose their job without about 90% pay and benefits for up to three years, if I remember correctly. But there was a provision that allowed the airline to furlough employees for up to three months. We were doing that because we needed the cash because we couldn't make payroll (how ironic). It was a nightmare trying to decide who would retain their jobs. I honestly have no idea if the leaders were ever able to actually carry out the furlough.
I also saw the yearly salary of the president of the airline who had just stepped down. It was obscene, under the circumstances - I don't think it would be appropriate to say the figure.
We also heard a story about a particular flight months earlier to one of the surrounding West African countries. When the crew got to their hotel, there was no electricity, and it was a very hot night. The Captain, apparently, was so annoyed he went back to the airport (without the rest of the crew) and flew the plane back to Abidjan by himself. I think he was promoted to Chief pilot. This was heresay, but it was a story that everyone in the company seemed to know. Needless to say, I don't think he got up early the next morning and flew the plane back to pick up the passengers and crew.
It was a wild two weeks. Initially, our trip had been delayed a week at the outset because of an attempted coup.
And two days before I left, I had to go pick up my return ticket at the Sabena ticket office about a mile from headquarters. My French-only speaking driver (and I didn't speak a word of French), was forced to pull over on our drive back to headquarters by a "military guard" standing in the street with a pistol. Unfortunately, the guard only spoke French, and he was apparently telling my driver to make me pay him a bribe, but my driver was telling him that I didn't speak French and that he didn't speak English, so he couldn't tell me to give him money. The guard wanted ID
, so I showed him my Air Afrique temporary ID
card through the open window, but I wouldn't let it out of my hands, and I had no intentions of getting out of the car.
Finally, after things seemed to get tense, the guard took all of my driver's "papers" and we high-tailed it back to the headquarters. My driver was then pulled over by the police right after he dropped me off and "fined" for not having his "papers." Needless to say, I paid him the amount he was fined (about $10 USD), and expensed it on my expense report under "misc." - I titled it - "bribe paid to man on the street with a gun."
Ah - Good Times!!!