Antonis Mavropoulos, president of the Vienna-based International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), had been ticketed for Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 to Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday, March 10, but was minutes late and kept from boarding the flight that would crash several minutes after take-off. There were no survivors.
Mavropoulous was bound for Nairobi to deliver remarks at the United Nations Environment Assembly 4 (UNEA 4) meeting, scheduled for March 11-15.
The ISWA president created a Facebook post showing his unused ticket for the flight, commenting in part about “the invisible [small details] of fortune, the out-of-plan circumstances [that] knit the web in which our life is taken.”
Mavropoulous writes that he was close enough to boarding to see the final passengers walking up the jetway, and acknowledges that he “screamed [at the gate agents] to put me in, but they didn’t allow it.” The airline had been unaware that Mavropoulos had arrived on a connecting flight, and also had no record of any checked luggage because he was traveling only with a carry-on bag.
He says the airline rebooked him on a flight later that morning and provided him with lounge access. While in the lounge, he was approached by two security officers who escorted him to an airport security office where he was informed of the fate of Flight ET302.
Writes Mavropoulos of that conversation, “He told me gently not to protest and say thank you to God, because I am the only passenger who did not enter Flight ET302, which is missing, and this was why they can’t let me go—until [they] determine who I am—because I didn’t get on the flight and everything.”
He continues, “I felt the ground lost under my feet, but I came back in one or two seconds, because I thought something else would happen, some communication problem maybe. People were kind, they asked what they had to ask [and] let me wait.”
Mavropoulos said he then sent text messages to family, friends and colleagues to notify them and reassure them that he had not, in fact, been on the ill-fated flight.
“Then I realized that I must immediately contact my own people and tell them that I was not [on that flight], and that for two small, random circumstances I [missed] the flight,” he writes. “The moment I made that thought, I collapsed, because then exactly I realized how lucky I stood.”
Mavropoulos concludes his post by writing, “I’m so glad I wrote a post and I’m grateful to live and that I have so many friends that made me feel their love—kisses to all and a warm ‘thank you’ for your touching support.” He adds, “A big sorry to my family for the shock” caused by the situation. “Maybe not too old to rock ‘n roll—but certainly too young to die . . .”