I admit it: I’m travel-promiscuous. I’ll go anywhere with anyone at any time. And thanks to that “never say no” policy, I’ve just been in Ghana for fewer than 48 hours.
The occasion was the United Airlines inaugural flight from Washington Dulles to Accra – their first flight ever to Africa, in fact. I was just a hanger-on; my friend Mark invited me to come along. United had sent a flotilla of managers and experts to make sure everything went smoothly (it did), and I learned a lot about airline operations just listening to them talk.
The Ghanaian ambassador to the US, Daniel Ohene Agyekum, was on our overnight flight to Accra. There were festivities at the departure gate: free cake, cookies, chips and drinks, and then some quick speeches.
Also on this first flight were several representatives of Malaria No More, an organization devoted to eliminating malaria in Africa. Malaria, they told us, kills more people here than HIV. United partnered with them to deliver the first shipment of anti-malarial bednets for a children’s hospital.
I’m a sucker for celebrations like this, where everyone is enthusiastic and full of hope for what might come next. Several speakers noted that this flight was capitol-to-capitol, and that Ghana was the first African country that President Obama visited after his election. It felt like a small moment of significance, of optimism and some badly needed good news from the corporate world.
After the speeches, we boarded the plane for the 11-hour flight to Accra. Oh, heavenly treat, we flew business class. United has new flat bed seats in business, something I’d never experienced before. And let me tell you, you sleep way better when you can stretch out.
There were a zillion options on the seat controls: Press this button, and you slide up and back, this one and the foot rest appears, another one for a change in lumbar support, push here and make the seat go completely flat. I slept seven hours straight both on the way out and on the return. No jet lag! (And no, United is not paying me for praising their business class seats.)
Of course, this entirely spoils me for the rest of my flying days, since I’m always back in coach, conserving my dollars or my frequent flyer miles. I fly cramped, but I fly often, is my motto. I’ll write more later about my impressions of Ghana (I loved it), but there’s definitely another flight to Accra in my future.