Sanford & Son Airways

If you’re LUCKY, you get what you pay for. With some airlines, I guess you can expect even less.


We flew easyJet from Munich to London Gatwick for the most recent trip of ours here. Right from the start and along the way, the pilot earned from us the nickname “Capt. Overshare” — he apologized for the delay in getting us onto the plane from the bus on the tarmac and blamed the tardiness on the fact that they apparently missed the runway on their first approach and had to go around for another go. That, and that there are so many computers in modern flight control systems that “it’s ridiculous” and that they sometimes have to be rebooted, just like your computer at home, and that took some extra time that morning. Thanks, Cap. Very reassuring.

Then he told us about 4 times how the weather in Munich and London was and promised to give us more updates later.

Then we landed, and that appeared to go smoothly. Exiting the plane, however, did not. All the passengers were getting ready to go, standing in the cramped aisleways, struggling to get their carry-on luggage out of the overhead compartments without ceding any personal space in the queue towards the front exit doors, and no one was moving forwards. For several minutes. Capt. Overshare dutifully informed us that there was a technical problem with the jetway. A couple minutes later, he informed us that it was due to some genius (on the easyJet ground crew? Working for LGW? He didn’t specify, oddly…) pulling the emergency stop level on the jetway controls. Restarting the jetway to maneuver it into position for our plane could only happen after an engineer got on the scene to get it going again. The ground crew informed the captain that locating and dispatching the appropriate engineer would be more timely than bringing a set of stairs over to exit out the aft doors of the plane (indeed, this is how about half of the passengers boarded the plane in Munich). So we waited. And waited. And waited a little more.

Then Capt. Overshare got back on the PA to tell us that this was quite silly and he had insisted on the rolling staircase to get us off his plane. We all began to deplane out the back. Sarah and I were almost out the doors when he got on again to inform the few remaining passengers that they could finally exit out the main doors into the once-again-operable jetway, if they preferred. Thanks.

Then the next Monday, after flying back from Berlin on GermanWings out of Schönefeld airport the previous day, I saw a news article via Twitter about three planes’ drinking water contaminated with kerosene. They were GermanWings planes. Leaving Berlin. From Schönefeld.

I wish I could say I only run into these sorts of shenanigans on low-cost carriers, but I fear that’s not the case.

Notes from our Rbg-FRA-DFW-PVR marathon

We were scheduled to leave Regensburg on EuroNight 420 at 00:14. We actually left 40 minutes later than scheduled. Still arrived at Frankfurt/Main Hbf 35 minutes early. This was our first experience with EuroNight. We had Sitzwagen tickets — nice and cheap, but rather cramped in our compartment with 3 other travelers and all their stuff. Would it be possible to buy a few seats per person in order to stretch out? We saw other compartments with some passengers all sprawled out by themselves or sharing a 6er compartment. How’d they manage that? Maybe just lucky that all their fellow compartment passengers got off the train early? And if they wanted to lay down, why not buy Liegewagen tickets? I think we’ll do that next time.

The post-Fruit-of-the-Boom-era extra security screening at the ticket counter upon checking in was the same old questions, just no longer phrased as yes/no questions, with a few new questions, like “how long have you owned that piece of luggage you’re checking?” But they made us split up for separate questioning even though we told them we’re married because we didn’t share a last name (or presumably part of one, like in a hyphenation situation) and didn’t have our marriage certificate on us (should we schlep a copy of that with us everywhere we go again? We used to have to do that in the early phase of our move here for bureaucratic purposes), even though our one piece of baggage to be checked had both our names and common address on it.

For the FRA to DFW flight, we were sitting in a row marked “DC ELECTRONIC POWER OUTLET AVAILABLE UNDER SEAT.” Never used one of those before. Is there some kind of adapter I can buy to plug in my laptop? I didn’t get a close look at the receptable, but it looks like it would accept a round plug. What voltage is it?

Time to get on our flight to PVR pretty soon. Greetings from DFW (nice airport, Texans!).

Travel Deals 12.12.2008

Kinda slow off the mark this week. Sorry, it’s been a doozy and the pickings looked slim.

Cruise Pricing

Anyone out there interested in cruising?

Eewww, no, not that kind of cruising. The big boat kind.

Vacations To Go reports that all of the major cruise lines are doing away with their fuel surcharge for the 2009 sailings. Huzzah, I say! To look at their site, you do have to give an e-mail address and they will send you two weekly newsletters, one for cruises, one for resorts. I think it’s a great resource, or at least a good jumping-off point. And the deals available on cruises are staggering (not just on VTG). Unlike an airline, it is not in the cruise ship’s best interest to sail half-full because they depend on people signing up for excursions and tipping for the line and the crew to make money. So they will slash the price of a cabin as much as needed to get bodies on the boat. We found our cruise a good way to sample lots of different areas we had yet to visit.

Europa hin- und zurück

Lufthansa is running a special for roundtrip flights within Europe for 99€, inclusive of taxes and fees! Look for your home airport and see where the deals take you. Move fast on this one – the offer ends on Sunday, Dec. 14. But you can fly starting today and going all the way to Oct. 30, 2009! Blackout dates probably apply, but it doesn’t say so specifically (as far as I’ve looked, anyhoo).

That’s pretty much it. Like I said, slim pickings, but I expect a pickup in the next couple of weeks. Let me know if you’ve seen any killer deals.

third time’s a charm, right?

…an EVIL charm maybe.

On this, my third and definitely final trip to Iaşi this year, I had high hopes that all my travel ducks would be in a row. Previous trips have gone off without a hitch — airport pick-ups and drop-offs, customs, luggage, hotels, and taxi transportation have all been no problem in the past.

But this time, something’s different. I flew Austrian Airlines instead of Carpatair, transferring in Vienna instead of Timişoara and decided to check my bag at the ticket window in Munich early Monday morning.

Well, right after that, I forgot that I still had my little Leatherman Squirt pocketknife attached to my keychain. I realized it before going through the metal detectors toward the gate, but my baggage (just one small suitcase) was already being checked onto the plane, so I couldn’t stash it in there. I went back to the Lufthansa (they do the check-in for Austrian…I guess the Anschluss lives on in some ways), and the ladies there were very nice, offering to walk me down to the Service Center where I could do short or long term storage of luggage and other items. I ended up paying €2,50 to store my entire keychain for up to three months (I plan to return on Friday afternoon). And with that, my first problem was solved. I thought to myself, “See? No sweat.”

I got to the gate still in plenty of time and waited and waited and waited. Finally they let us board the plane…and then we waited another 30 minutes. This was only supposed to be a 40 minute flight, and I had something like only 35 minutes between landing and take-off of the next flight in Vienna. I got picked up outside the plane on the tarmac in Vienna where I was rushed to customs, re-scanned for metal, and then rushed back out to the tarmac for boarding on my flight to Iaşi. I was the last person on the plane, and my ticket was for a seat in the last row, so I got the stinkeye from everyone on board, who probably assumed that I was responsible for my own lateness. Right after I buckled myself in, it struck me that there was very little chance of my luggage arriving with me.

When we landed in Iasi, I was pretty much the last person off the plane. There was only one person working the Austrian Airlines desk in Iaşi, and he spent like 20 minutes each on the first two people whose luggage also got lost. An older Romanian man pushed me out of the way when it was my turn to present my baggage claim ticket, which made me mad. A Belgian lady and an English lady behind me in line grumbled in what they probably thought was support, but it just made things worse — the Austrian Airlines baggage claim guy yelled at her when she asked if he was the only one working.

End result: I get to go to work and train my new guy at 8:00 am on Monday wearing the same clothes — my “plane clothes,” as it were — I put on an 4:00 am on Sunday. Yuck. And I was sleepy after my travels today, so I napped and now I’m up at 4:30 in the morning on Monday, waiting for the hotel’s restaurant to open for breakfast at 7:00.

But the good news is: I got a chance to walk around town in daylight for the first time and snap some pictures.

United Airlines

I think we’ll pay extra in the future just to avoid the hassle of United Airlines. True, nothing disastrous happened on our multi-leg trip from Munich to K.C. via Chicago and onto Puerto Vallarta via Denver and home to Munich via San Francisco, but there were many small points of stress that added up into unnecessary headaches, and our longest stretches of flight were on Lufthansa, anyway. The best (shortest) way I can express my disapproval of United is simply a word of thanks to Frontier airlines for picking up the slack when United left us hanging.