Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mixed flight experiences

Here I am, finally, after an exhausting flight to the west coast. And beyond, actually, because I'm on Vancouver Island now. I got up yesterday at 5 in the morning, finished packing my bags, turned off water, gas and electricity (reassuring myself here) and took the train to Frankfurt International Airport. Well, actually I got off the train in Frankfurt main station to buy a present for Jens and Christoph and then went on to the airport.

Funky long legs in train door window

Actually I only wanted to write about the flights but now that I write "airport", the Frankfurt one deserves a special note: it was surprisingly difficult for me to find restrooms. I would have even forgotten about it after being awake for about 30 hours but a guy I talked to told me that it was the same experience for him. So at least it wasn't only me being too stupid. The flight, well, it was as good as a flight to the west coast in economy can be. Forcing a 6'2'' body into an economy seat for almost eleven hours simply doesn't feel too good, I still got a sore back. The service was great, though. The flight attendants were extremely friendly, the food was great (I had pasta twice), the drinks were plenty (I had red wine, Campari orange, Baileys, water, coffee, a couple of each actually). Later on I found out what seems to be the reason for the what felt like an extra special treatment, quoting the announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, this flight has been selected to do a customer survey...”. Well, anyway, I can only say that “there's no better way to fly”. Except business class for example.
Lufthansa Airbus
Of course the Lufthansa part was too smooth so Air Canada had to screw it up. I only had one hundred minutes to switch planes. Theoretically, that is, practically the flight from Frankfurt was a little late and the line at Vancouver Airport was long. Half an hour before departure (and five minutes after boarding time) I was still in line. When I finally got to the counter the lady there kept on asking questions why I was coming to Canada, where I will stay, blah blah blah. Then I had to reclaim my baggage, carry it to the customs counter and check it back in for the flight to Victoria! How stupid is that?! And why do you get a schedule that tight when you got so many things to do? So I was running back and forth the hall, literally, from one counter to the next, it was a hot day, I was covered in sweat, they took away my gifts for Jens and Christoph (a special kind of German sausage), I rushed through corridors that didn't seem to end, an elevator here, stairs there, being sent back to put my luggage on a conveyor belt, another security check, with a waiting line of course, having to finish my water bottle (being the evil MacGyver terrorist that I am), being thirsty nevertheless, more corridors, stairs, interpreting signs where to go, never being really sure whether I'm on the right way at all, finally getting to the right gate, running outside, one minute to four, getting on the plane, stewardess closing the door, taking a seat, off we go. That was last minute, literally. The plane was a small one, the flight was a short one, low altitude, nice view, no seat at the window, though. And then, the screw-up: baggage reclaim, well, supposed to be, my bag wasn't there. Being all sweaty and greasy and stinky smelly yucky, having no clothes to change was among the worst things that could happen to me, close to a plane crash. So I went to the Air Canada baggage counter and the woman made up for it. She was really really friendly and helpful and told me that my bag might even be on the next plane coming in from Vancouver. So she filled in some form for me and gave me a delayed baggage card and when I went I luckily saw Christoph waiting in the hall. Well, at least I was pretty sure I saw Christoph since I had never met him in person by that time :). We had already exchanged a lot of emails and he was (and still is) the greatest help since sliced bread. So we went to the Starbucks at the airport and I had an Americano to help keep me awake. Some nice talking later (I guess I wasn't too entertaining, though) we went back to the counter to hopefully get my bag but it still wasn't there. The lady promised me it would arrive the same day because she had still several flights coming in until midnight and on one of them the bag should really be. (A couple days before I went to Canada my brother actually sent me a link to a blog entry while we were chatting. Seth Godin had some interesting thoughts about the air line industry. Although I don't share the damning report of Air Canada being “the single worst major airline in North America”, that might just be because it was only a 22 minutes flight—long enough to mess up my baggage. I guess I don't wanna know what they would be able to do on a ten hour flight :>.) So Christoph took me to his place to lend me some fresh clothes where Nancy, his girl, joined us and then took me to my place where we met my roommates. Julie showed me the place and lend me a towel and told me I could use her shower gel and stuff. The girls went off to an appointment, not without inviting us to join them later. The shower, I simply can't put it in words, was good. The two took me to a drugstore so I could buy some personal hygiene articles, we tried to call the Air Canada “hotline“ a few times and sure enough I was on hold for more than ten minutes each time before I hung up. We went to the Spinnakers for dinner, a lovely place with a great view across the harbor. Plus they brew their own beer, great. After that Christoph and Nancy took me home and I finally finally finally went to bed and fell asleep very very quickly. Only to wake up again at five in the morning but that will be another blog entry.


Ingo Maier said...

Hmm, so did your baggage show up eventually?

Thomas said...

Yeah, right on the next morning even. I did a couple of frustrating phone calls that morning (waiting loops, answering machine, "no Sir, sorry but I don't have that information" in all flavors). And then, tada!, a guy from some company (Air Canada? Some sort of courier?) called me telling me he's only a couple blocks away and has my bag with him. He was close enough that I had just enough time to walk out to the parking lot and there he was. What a relief!