We can’t always see or recognize the significance of things as they happen, especially not in the moment. It’s only until we reflect back on seemingly insignificant or even ‘unlucky’ experiences that we can see of life-changing those moments really were.
In early March 2019, a Greek man traveling from Greece to Kenya was furious when he missed his connecting flight in Ethiopia by just two minutes. It wasn’t until a few hours later, however, that the man realized how lucky he and one other man had been for missing the flight…
A Work Trip
In early March of 2019, Antonis Mavropoulos prepared to travel from his home in Greece to Nairobi, Kenya. Mavropoulos owns a recycling company in Greece and was traveling for work to Kenya to attend a big United Nations environmental conference.
The Flight Plan
Mavropoulos booked his flights through Ethiopian Airlines and had one stop along the way at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in Ethiopia. However, there was only a 30-minute layover before the second flight from Ethiopia to Kenya took off.
As a result, Mavropoulos did everything in his power to make his connecting flight and even decided to only bring carry-on luggage with him so he wouldn’t have to spend any time collecting his luggage once in Ethiopia. He hoped that 30 minutes would be just enough time to make it to the connecting flight.
A 30-Minute Connection
“I didn’t check my suitcase, because I knew the gap between connecting flights was tight,” Mavropoulos to Greece’s Skai Television. So when Mavropoulos actually landed at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport on March 10, 2019, he quickly got off the plane once it landed.
“I had a 30-minute connection and my flight arrived on time. My connection ambassador came after I left the plane,” Mavropoulos said about the airline employee that was supposed to be waiting for him at the gate to bring him to the next flight and ensure it didn’t leave without him.
No Time To Waste
When Mavropoulos didn’t see his connection ambassador, he didn’t waste any time waiting around for him and started racing through the airport instead. Yet he still didn’t have enough time to make it in time to board Ethiopian Airlines’ Flight 302, which ended up taking off at 8:38 that morning.
Two Minutes Late
Mavropoulos was just two minutes too late and the boarding agents refused to let him onto the aircraft no matter how much he pleaded with them. “When I arrived, boarding had closed and I saw the last passengers in the tunnel going in [to the airplane],” Mavropoulos wrote on Facebook.
A Frustrated Passenger
Mavropoulos was understandably upset and frustrated that he missed the flight and that the airline staff refused to let him board even though he was just minutes late and could still see someone walking onto the plane. He was also upset that his connection ambassador failed to get him on the flight.
“I was mad because nobody helped me to reach the gate on time,” Mavropoulos said about the frustrating experience. “I saw the last passengers going through, but the gate had already closed. I complained, in the usual way when that kind of thing happens.”
The Next Flight
“I yelled for them to let me in but I wasn’t allowed,” Mavropoulos added. The staff apologized for the inconvenience but promised they would get him on the next flight to Nairobi. “They were very kind and placed me on another flight,” Mavropoulos explained.
A Lucky Day
Mavropoulos had no idea that the time, but missing that flight was the best thing that ever happened to him. It wasn’t until several hours later when he was about to board the next flight to Kenya that he finally learned how lucky he was for running late that morning.
Another Missed Flight
After waiting three hours for the next flight, Mavropoulos was about to board when he was suddenly stopped by two security guards. They told him he couldn’t board the flight for security reasons. Mavropoulos was furious and began complaining, so the guards brought him to their supervisor.
When Mavropoulos met with the supervisor, he was told that Flight 302 had gone missing shortly after taking off. According to Mavropoulos, the supervisor “politely told me not to protest and say I should thank God because I was the only passenger who did not board Flight 302, which was still missing.”
“At first I thought he was lying, but his manner left no room for doubt,” Mavropoulos said. The airport staff told Mavropoulos that they needed to verify his identity and why he didn’t board the flight. While waiting, news started to break about the doomed Ethiopian Airlines Flight.
The Text Message
According to Mavropoulos, he couldn’t understand how a plane just went missing and tried to reason that there must be some kind of communication or technological issue. Then the wifi at the airport suddenly turned off at the airport and he received a text message from a close friend with devastating news.
“I learned that the flight crashed almost just as it took off and that the news was appearing on the Greek media,” said Mavropoulos. When he learned that all 149 passengers and eight crew members died when the Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed six minutes after takeoff, he suddenly realized how lucky he had been.
Two Lucky Passengers
Mavropoulos and just one other passenger, Ahmed Khalid, just barely missed boarding the doomed flight. “I felt the ground disappear beneath my feet,” said Mavropoulos, who immediately contacted family and colleagues to let them know he never made it on the flight and was safe. “At that moment I collapsed because I realized exactly just how lucky I am.”
Blessings In Disguise
In the wake of the news, the lucky man realized that he would likely have died if the connection ambassador found him at the gate or if he had checked his bags, as the airline would have waited for him. To help deal with the shock and let friends know he was ok, Mavropoulos wrote about the experience on social media.
Threads Of Luck
“I’m posting because I want to tell everyone that the invisible threads of luck — the unplanned circumstances — knit the web of which our life is caught on,” he wrote on Facebook. “There are millions of small threads that we usually never feel — but if one breaks that whole web unwinds instantaneously.”
A Close Call
“I’m slowly coming to terms with what happened and how close it came. On the other hand, I’m also very upset – I’m shattered – for those who were lost,” said Mavropoulos, who actually knew a lot of the victims on the flight. “To be honest, I didn’t get much sleep last night. It’s a very sad moment for all of us. It can happen to anyone. It was randomness.”