Select Page

Unscheduled stop-over at Kilimanjaro starts a chain of events that turns into a nightmare

Unscheduled stop-over at Kilimanjaro starts a chain of events that turns into a nightmare

A disgruntled expat living and working in Windhoek has vowed never again to fly Ethiopian Airlines after his year-end vacation turned into a nightmare of missed connecting flights, unforeseen hotel bills, lost luggage and airline chaos.

Speaking to the Economist, award-winning creative director at advertising agency, Advantage Y&R, Toufic Beyhum said he and his family used Ethiopian Airlines to fly to Addis Ababa where they would have connected to Cairo before taking the home-stretch to Beirut. The trip from Windhoek to Addis was supposed to be a non-stop direct flight.

Pinning it down to the point where their ordeal started, Beyhum said “When we boarded the flight on 10 December 2017, the pilot announced that we would be stopping at Kilimanjaro. Everyone on the plane looked confused, including the air hostesses. We started stressing that we would miss our connecting flight to Cairo but were placated by the air hostess who said that the plane to Cairo would wait for us.”

This turned out to be false.

“After a short stop in Kilimanjaro, we arrived at Addis to a chaotic airport where, of course, we missed the connecting flight by 15 minutes. The plane to Cairo did not wait for us,” he said. Beyhum was travelling with his wife and three children aged 3 to 8, and by now the strain was taking its toll on the children.

In Addis, the Ethiopian help desk was in chaos, and the staff, according to Beyhum, clueless and unhelpful. “We were eventually booked onto an Egypt Air flight at 5am and told to wait in a cold room where our children were not provided with blankets. In the morning, we were told that we could not get on the Egypt Air flight, no reason given, and that we would be put in a hotel till the following evening for the next Ethiopian Airline flight to Cairo. We were given our boarding cards for that flight.”

But this was not the end yet, as Beyhum related the second phase of their torture. “We had no access to our luggage so we arrived at the hotel with no clean clothes or toiletries. My children were exhausted and getting sick by that stage. We spent a day in Addis buying items like underwear and toiletries. Beyond that, the food at the hotel was disgusting, so we had to spend more money to eat at restaurants.”

“We also missed a 1-night stay at our Cairo hotel for which Ethiopian Airlines is not willing to compensate us. I have sent them the receipt,” he said adding that they refused to refund any of their expenses including the night they missed in Cairo which they had to pay for before leaving Windhoek. The prepaid money for the Cairo taxi was also forfeited.

“They tried to offer us discount on the next Ethiopian airline trip but I specifically told them we will never fly their airline again so why would we want a discount?

But the family had not reached Cairo yet and getting there turned out to be another major obstacle. “The next evening, we went to board our flight to Cairo only to find that our names were not on the system! We had to make a big scene to get on that plane.”

The return to Windhoek at the end of their vacation almost turned into another ordeal.

Beyhum recalled how difficult it was to make contact with the Ethiopian Airlines office in Beirut to confirm their return flight.

“I tried several times to confirm our tickets in Beirut by calling the local office but no-one picked up. When we got to the airport our names were once again not in the system! After a lot of stress, we managed to get on the plane and come home,” he said.

“It was our first time flying Ethiopian Airlines and believe me it will be our last. A simple Google search shows their consistently low ratings which reveals that we are not alone in feeling this way.”

Caption: Total chaos reigned at the Ethiopian Airlines office at the international airport in Addis Ababa as hundreds of airline passengers were left in the lurch by the airline, many of them missing their connecting flights and forced to pay for their own lodgings at hotels in the city. (Photograph by Toufic Beyhum)

Since raising the issue with Ethiopian Airlines, a company representative has met Mr Beyhum and agreed to refund him for the additional expenses for lodgings. For the airline’s official response, see the article below under Extra.



About The Author

Sanlam 2018 Annual Results

7 March 2019


Sanlam’s 2018 annual results provides testimony to its resilience amid challenging operating conditions and negative investment markets

Sanlam today announced its operational results for the 12 months ended 31 December 2018. The Group made significant progress in strategic execution during 2018. This included the acquisition of the remaining 53% stake in SAHAM Finances, the largest transaction concluded in the Group’s 100-year history, and the approval by Sanlam shareholders of a package of Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) transactions that will position the Group well for accelerated growth in its South African home market.

Operational results for 2018 included 14% growth in the value of new life insurance business (VNB) on a consistent economic basis and more than R2 billion in positive experience variances, testimony to Sanlam’s resilience in difficult times.

The Group relies on its federal operating model and diversified profile in dealing with the challenging operating environment, negative investment markets and volatile currencies. Management continues to focus on growing existing operations and extracting value from recent corporate transactions to drive enhanced future growth.

The negative investment market returns and higher interest rates in a number of markets where the Group operates had a negative impact on growth in operating earnings and some other key performance indicators. This was aggravated by weak economic growth in South Africa and Namibia and internal currency devaluations in Angola, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Substantial growth in Santam’s operating earnings (net result from financial services) and satisfactory growth by Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) and Sanlam Corporate offset softer contributions from Sanlam Personal Finance (SPF) and Sanlam Investment Group (SIG).

Key features of the 2018 annual results include:

Net result from financial services increased by 4% compared to the same period in 2017;

Net value of new covered business up 8% to R2 billion (up 14% on a consistent economic basis);

Net fund inflows of R42 billion compared to R37 billion in 2017;

Adjusted Return on Group Equity Value per share of 19.4% exceeded the target of 13.0%; and

Dividend per share of 312 cents, up 8%.

Sanlam Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ian Kirk said: “We are satisfied with our performance in a challenging operating environment. We will continue to focus on managing operations prudently and diligently executing on our strategy to deliver sustainable value to all our stakeholders. The integration of SAHAM Finances is progressing well. In addition, Sanlam shareholders approved the package of B-BBEE transactions, including an equity raising, at the extraordinary general meeting held on 12 December 2018. Our plan to implement these transactions this year remains on track.”

Sanlam Personal Finance (SPF) net result from financial services declined by 5%, largely due to the impact of new growth initiatives and dampened market conditions. Excluding the new initiatives, SPF’s contribution was 1% down on 2017 due to the major impact that the weak equity market performance in South Africa had on fund-based fee income.

SPF’s new business sales increased by 4%, an overall satisfactory result under challenging conditions. Sanlam Sky’s new business increased by an exceptional 71%. Strong growth of 13% in the traditional individual life channel was augmented by the Capitec Bank credit life new business recognised in the first half of 2018, and strong demand for the new Capitec Bank funeral product. The Recurring premium and Strategic Business Development business units also achieved strong growth of 20%, supported by the acquisition of BrightRock in 2017. Glacier new business grew marginally by 1%. Primary sales onto the Linked Investment Service Provider (LISP) platform improved by 5%, an acceptable result given the pressure on investor confidence in the mass affluent market. This was however, offset by lower sales of wrap funds and traditional life products.

The strong growth in new business volumes at Sanlam Sky had a major positive effect on SPF’s VNB growth, which increased by 7% (14% on a comparable basis).

Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) grew its net result from financial services by 14%. Excluding the impact of corporate activity, earnings were marginally up on 2017 (up 8% excluding the increased new business strain).

New business volumes at SEM increased by 20%. Namibia performed well, increasing new business volumes by 22% despite weak economic conditions. Both life and investment new business grew strongly. Botswana underperformed with the main detractor from new business growth being the investment line of business, which declined by 24%. This line of business is historically more volatile in nature.

The new business growth in the Rest of Africa portfolio was 68% largely due to corporate activity relating to SAHAM Finances, with the East Africa portfolio underperforming.

The Indian insurance businesses continued to perform well, achieving double-digit growth in both life and general insurance in local currency. The Malaysian businesses are finding some traction after a period of underperformance, increasing their overall new business contribution by 3%. New business production is not yet meeting expectations, but the mix of business improved at both businesses.

SEM’s VNB declined by 3% (up 6% on a consistent economic basis and excluding corporate activity). The relatively low growth on a comparable basis is largely attributable to the new business underperformance in East Africa.

Sanlam Investment Group’s (SIG) overall net result from financial services declined by 6%, attributable to lower performance fees at the third party asset manager in South Africa, administration costs incurred for system upgrades in the wealth management business and lower earnings from equity-backed financing transactions at Sanlam Specialised Finance. The other businesses did well to grow earnings, despite the pressure on funds under management due to lower investment markets.

New business volumes declined by 13% mainly due to market volatility and low investor confidence in South Africa. Institutional new inflows remained weak for the full year, while retail inflows also slowed down significantly after a more positive start to the year. The international businesses, UK, attracted strong new inflows (up 57%).

Sanlam Corporate’s net result from financial services increased by 4%, with the muted growth caused by a continuation of high group risk claims experience. Mortality and disability claims experience weakened further in the second half of the year, which is likely to require more rerating of premiums in 2019. The administration units turned profitable in 2018, a major achievement. The healthcare businesses reported satisfactory double-digit growth in earnings, while the Absa Consultants and Actuaries business made a pleasing contribution of R39 million.

New business volumes in life insurance more than doubled, reflecting an exceptional performance. Single premiums grew by 109%, while recurring premiums increased by a particularly satisfactory 56%.

The good growth in recurring and single premium business, combined with modelling improvements, supported a 64% (71% on a comparable economic basis) increase in the cluster’s VNB contribution.

Following a year of major catastrophe events in 2017, Santam experienced a relatively benign claims environment in 2018. Combined with acceptable growth in net earned premiums, it contributed to a 37% increase in gross result from financial services (41% after tax and non-controlling interest). The conventional insurance book achieved an underwriting margin of 9% in 2018 (6% in 2017).

As at 31 December 2018, discretionary capital amounted to a negative R3.7 billion before allowance for the planned B-BBEE share issuance. A number of capital management actions during 2018 affected the balance of available discretionary capital, including the US$1 billion (R13 billion) SAHAM Finances transaction. Cash proceeds from the B-BBEE share issuance will restore the discretionary capital portfolio to between R1 billion and R1.5 billion depending on the final issue price within the R74 to R86 price range approved by shareholders.

Looking forward, the Group said economic growth in South Africa would likely remain weak in the short to medium term future, and would continue to impact efforts to accelerate organic growth. The outlook for economic growth in other regions where the Group operates is more promising. Recent acquisitions such as the SAHAM transaction should also support operational performance going forward.

“We remain focused on executing our strategy. We are confident that we have the calibre of management and staff to prudently navigate the anticipated challenges going forward,” Mr Kirk concluded.

Details of the results for the 12 months ended 31 December 2018 are available at