While South African Airways face an uncertain future, one passenger wanted to reach out to thank the airline and a special pilot that helped him get back home after a serious injury.
Louis de Jager hurt his back while working on a boat in Nigeria, and had to be airlifted to Lagos where after three days in hospital was taken by ambulance to the airport, where SAA staff transported him smoothly through the airport, sorting out his tickets and luggage promptly before he took his seat in Business Class - where they had already flattened his seat for him to lie down.
"The service on that flight was unbelievable and the people were so helpful!" tells De Jager, especially pointing out that one stewardess constantly checked up on him but he was in too much pain to get her name.
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Louis de Jager on his flight back from Nigeria to South Africa. (Photo: Louis de Jager)
After landing at OR Tambo, he was again transported to SAA's lounge, where the staff continued to look after him and bringing him whatever he wanted. He was lying flat on the couch with his shoes off as that was the only way he could have any comfort from his pain.
"I realised that people were staring at me and wondering why this man is lying on the couch with his feet up, and at one point I saw Captain Thomas Laas come sit across from me."
"The time eventually came that they had to come fetch me again for my last flight to Cape Town, and I tried to put on my shoes again because my parents taught me that you don't lie down on a couch with your shoes on.
"While I was busy Captain Laas saw I was in pain and asked 'young man, can I please help you with your shoes because I can see you can't do it yourself'."
"At first I thought how could I let a pilot captain tie my shoelaces for me, but I was in so much pain that I decided to accept the offer."
The pilot went on his knees and proceeded to tie De Jager's shoelaces, which he snuck a photo of because he didn't think people would believe him.
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Kind pilot Captain Thomas Laas tying the shoes of an injured passenger. (Photo: Louis de Jager)
"It was one of the best moments of my life, just because I appreciated it so much and inside I was half emotional to know that there's such good people in our country."
SAA staff transported him again in his wheelchair to his flight - he was first onboard with a seat in the front row and laid down on the ground so long, telling the flight attendant that he will get up soon he just needed a break from the pain.
"She went and talked to the captain and organised to keep three seats next to each other empty in the back of the plane where I could lie on my back all the way to the Cape."
After landing he was transported again through the airport all the way to the ambulance waiting to take him to Panorama Hospital.
De Jager manager to get hold of the captain who helped him with his shoes afterwards - Laas laughingly said it was actually quite difficult to tie the shoes from the other side.
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