Sunday, May 10, 2009

Day 1: running through Frankfurt with one shoe

You may wonder how an itinerary that suggested simple Charlotte/Atlanta/Rome connections landed us in Frankfurt. Here’s how we canceled our Mediterranean cruise and ended up in Germany.

It was a dark and foggy morning. Got worse from there.

The fun truly started the night before our trip started though. Nick brought home an onerous work project to be finished before he left. I had discovered all my clothes would in fact fit in the suitcase – only to find out it was over the 50 lb. weight limit. It was the quart bags that did me in though. Suffering through the planning process is all part of the deal, but the details eventually got to me as I ran screaming “QUART BAGS!” through the house, out the door and to the grocery store down the street.

Bed at 12:30 AM; wake-up at 5:00 AM. Made it to the airport with no problems, breezed through check-in and sat in the airport rocking chairs. Unfortunately the dark and foggy morning continued long enough to cancel the flight in front of us and create a 2-hour delay on our flight. Then, the plane that was to take us from Charlotte to Atlanta experienced electrical problems. No one could give us straight answers and my husband was promptly on the phone with Delta to consider other options. We went back and forth, waited to see if there would be any new news on our originally scheduled flight and weighed our odds of ever seeing our luggage again if we changed our itinerary. In the end we opted for a different flight that would route us to JFK and then on to Rome.

Given that this wasn’t terribly different from our original itinerary, the plane had arrived on time at the Charlotte gate without any malfunctions and gave us a bit more time to make our connection (which had two hours already shaved off from the delays), we took it. We boarded and then they informed us we’d sit on the tarmac for 40 minutes. Just enough time to put us on the cusp for making our connecting flight to Rome. Nick again went to the automated Delta line to get some help. (Should anyone be considering such a service, I recommend that you don’t have the system rely on voice answers but instead consider the frustration of punching an endless stream of numbers to actually be less of an annoyance than having a computer misunderstand the words “No.” and “Representative.” ) The eventual human on the end of the line had few problem solving capabilities apparently and basically said “Sorry. Too bad you’ll miss your cruise.” We had to hope by some miracle we’d make the connection.

You can imagine how we felt when it turned out our connecting plane had left early. We had missed it completely. The Delta representative at the desk said essentially the same thing as the phone rep: “Sorry. Too bad you’ll miss your cruise.” We asked for other options. Nothing.

We canceled the cruise.

We went back to the desk after making the unfortunate call and stood in line for an hour to talk to yet another representative about a flight home. Turns out, she was a problem-solver. She found a flight to Rome through Frankfurt on Lufthansa. Nick worked on that. I worked on calling the cruise-line to re-establish our cruise. Somehow it worked and for a few brief moments we anticipated making the cruise after all.

At the Lufthansa counter we discovered it was an illegal booking because we only had 40 minutes between the two flights – 2 hours was typically required. The agents worked to get us a last-minute booking with Swiss Air. We took a train and ran to the Swiss Air counter in another terminal and waited while they negotiated with Lufthansa. In the end, we missed that opportunity and ran back to the Lufthansa counter. We’d have to hope we were lucky enough to make the connection in Frankfurt.

The stewardess, while kind, gave us a horrified look when we explained we had 40 minutes to make our connection. “You cannot do that.” So, I sat on the plane and cried. I was tired, hungry, smelled bad and had little chance of making the connecting flight (and given the day’s history, was fairly certain we would not). I sorta slept. Had to make yelping noises when the people in front tried to lean back their seat on my knee. I sorta slept.

Morning came. We watched the on-flight TV screen as it flashed our estimated arrival time. We would be two minutes early. That was the first good news we had heard and gave us just enough hope to get us through the labyrinth that is the Frankfurt airport.

During our sprint down several long hallways Nick’s backpack kept coming open and spewed my sneakers on the floor during one of the sprints. I grabbed the shoe, he took the backpack off his shoulder and we were off again. We ran down more hallways, up and down multiple flights of stairs, turned so many corners I was sure we’d gone in a circle and, in the end, made it. We made it. Not only that, we had a seat with leg room!
So, yes, we made it to Rome and made it on the cruise (we were the last people to board). Our luggage did not, but for now that’s ok. It was an awful day, but we now have ten days to recover on what we hope will be a much more pleasant journey.

5 comments:

  1. Wow! What a great travel story on determination and team work. I hope the luggage finds you and you both have a wonderful cruise.

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  2. Rebecca!!! This deserves a Maureen OMG!!!!!!!!! What a horrible experience but I'm so glad to hear that you made it. I can't wait to hear more and I really hope after all that, you can enjoy yourself. All is good in Costa Rica so far :)

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  3. Let me just say that I've been there. This happened to us the last time we flew to Malaysia (and the time before that). We missed our flight to Atlanta (due to airplane issues), we were rebooked only to find out names NOT on the Korean airlines manifest. I lost it.

    Let me tell you that I was beyond frustrated.

    I truly understand. I hope that you're able to have a fun time even without the cruise.

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  4. Cathy said - "this is better than Denise and I discussing "Private Practice."

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  5. We actually met a former ELTI student on our Delta flight to JFK and then in the line to change flights - she and her husband missed their flight to Turkey. Small world!

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