SA’s Road Warriors share their business travel horror stories

24 August 2017

In August 2017 we began the hunt to find and reward business travel survivors.  We received hundreds of entries ranging from entertaining to cringe worthy as road warriors described their experiences of navigating the rocky territory of business travel.

It was a tough decision to choose a winner out of the many fantastic entries but we would like to congratulate Mike Drummond who walks away with our main prize of a fabulous trip for two to Mauritius worth R40,000!

Here is our winner's story:

“I flew into Harare, Zimbabwe for the day for a business meeting. I was joined by some influential people so felt it appropriate to wear a suit – the problem, five months prior I had had a ‘sugar’ scare and through strict diet had lost 13kg. Needless to say, I needed another hole in the belt to keep the pants tight, no problem, all was good.

At the end of a very successful day, got to the Harare airport with a few minutes to spare and only hand luggage in hand. Having approached security and the dreaded time delaying x-ray machines, I was asked to remove my shoes, no problem. I was then asked to remove – yes – my belt. After much pointless pleading, hand luggage still in one hand, I removed the belt and held up my pants with the other, walking in a very crouched type position. I proceeded to place my shoes, my belt and my hand luggage through the machine and approached the ‘walk through’ machine. To this day, I still do not know what made this shoeless, beltless, most innocent looking man set off THAT alarm.

Yes the dreaded ‘pat down’. A full airport, queues of people and I was asked to put my hands in the air. I have never pleaded like that, my pleading turned to warning, ‘you don’t want me to do that’, ‘seriously, you don’t want me to do that’. You can only begin to imagine, security having nothing of it – ‘RAISE YOUR HANDS’.

So there I was in the middle of a full Harare airport with no shoes, no belt and pants around my ankles. Looking very good from the waist up but not very kosher from the waist down. I was told to very quickly collect my belongings, get dressed and board my plane, which I did and received a very warm round of applause from a few of my fellow passengers.”

Here is a snapshot of some of the other entries that made it to our list of finalists.

Travelling in Nigeria:

“When I got into the driver’s car there was a security also sitting in front of the car with an AK47. When I asked why the armed guard he replied that there have been many expat kidnappings recently and told me to get in quickly as I am probably being watched as we speak. My heart sank and I got in and did not say a word. Until the guard fell asleep and I had this huge rifle pointing at me, which I had to tell the guard to move on a few occasion.  I also asked the driver why every time we passed a police checkpoint he put his hand out and shake the police hand. He responded " Oh I am not shaking his hand I am putting money in their hand for us to pass without any problems".

An eventful bus trip through Niger:

“Toilet and food breaks were infrequent and pretty disgusting. Anyone who has travelled in Africa knows what I mean when I talk about long-drop toilets, but at least these were reasonably clean. It was the food that was disgusting. I am not squeamish, and I am very adventurous; I’ve eaten palm grubs in the Congo, mice in Mozambique, grasshoppers and deep fried baby birds in Malawi, but the food at the small stalls along the way was too much for me to handle. The meat was usually goat cooked on an open fire, which is normally just right for me, but in Benin, it was cooked by a guy who sweated all over the food, wiped his brow with his hands and then flipped the meat with his hands. He used an old axe to butcher the meat, an implement that looked like it doubled as a prop on Game of Thrones, and the flies were everywhere. I mean, EVERYWHERE. They were on the meat, in the meat, in your eyes, in your ears… everywhere.”

And the tales aren’t always about deepest, darkest Africa… Here’s our road warrior’s tale of an unfortunate trip to Spain:

“Strike one. We did our business in Manchester and had to fly to Barcelona. We decided to use a low-cost airline. Little did I know that they would lose our bags! Strike two. I realized that the pasta vongole (made with seafood) was causing an allergic reaction as spots developed everywhere on my body. Not such pretty sight especially when you are in such a romantic city. Then we were robbed in broad daylight by gypsys! Strike 3. I realized that I had an ear infection. It was the most painful sensation on earth next to childbirth! Try getting medication from Spanish apothecaries which was a mission! So imagine me trying to do a business deal with spots all over and cotton wool in my ears wearing the only clothes on my back?”

An unforgettable international flight – for all the wrong reasons:

“I was on my way to Switzerland for work. Flying to France and catching a connecting flight to Switzerland. The flight was packed to capacity but I had managed to organise a bulkhead seat. The extra leg room was superb. I kicked off my shoes and got comfortable. They had dimmed the lights and I had nodded off when I heard a bit of a commotion with the guy next to me. One of the passengers was drunk. He was waiting in the queue to go to the bathroom and could no longer wait so he walked to the corner of the bulkhead and was relieving himself! When the guy next to me screamed he turned around and we'd all over my shoes, the blanket, my pants and the floor! It was dreadful. Because the flight was packed they could not move us so we had to endure another 7 hours of the smell. My sneakers were full of urine, and my luggage was going straight through - so I had to run through the Charles de Gaulle in airline socks to catch my connecting flight! A flight I will never forget!”

Horror stories can be made on local business trips too:

“Sitting beside my boss on a flight from Durban to Cape Town. I get up, while he is sleeping, go to the restroom and stop and ask the flight attendant for a tomato juice. She hands me a can, I go back to my seat, pop the top, and it sprays all over my boss's khaki suit pants!! He remained asleep until we prepared to land and when he woke up, he freaked out! To this day, I still deny it!!!!!!!!!!!"

Nightmare Cape Town flight:

“While traveling down to Cape Town for the day I was sitting next to a 4ball that decided to start the festivities early. It was the 6am flight and they were already well greased by the time they boarded. The poor chap that I was next to did not look like he was in good shape and sure enough about half way through decided to get sick. Unfortunately for me, most of it ended up on me!

So, I arrive in Cape Town smelling like a delicious mix of vomit and alcohol at about 8am in the morning. As I was only down for the day I had NO CLOTHS to change into. So, into the Woolworths I go at the airport as its time to buy a new shirt and pants. Let’s just say that I had limited options and ended up looking like I was meant to be playing golf at the masters instead of facilitating a course with some executives for the day!”

At Corporate Traveller we specialise in taking the pain out of business travel. That’s why you’ll be assigned a dedicated travel expert to book your trips and make sure you travel as efficiently as possible.  Plus if things do go wrong, you’ll always have someone to call on 24/7 who can help make it right.

Corporate Traveller – helping Road Warriors have less horror stories since 1999.