Okay, we're out of order again, but I just need to write about yesterday's adventure (that's a nice word for it), while it's still fresh in my mind.
We had booked our tickets using Frequent Flier Miles that we have with Continental. As you know (if you've been following along), we had a non-stop flight from Newark to Tel Aviv on Continental on December 26. But for our return flight, we couldn't get a non-stop, and ended up with an eight hour stop over in Amsterdam. Not the best of alternatives, but we were flying First Class and we figured that was enough time to head into the city for lunch and to visit the Anne Frank House (I had purchased tickets ahead of time).
So on Wednesday January 6th at 2:00am Israel time (7:00pm January 5th for those of you on the east coast), we left our hotel in Tel Aviv (after getting about 3.5 hours of sleep), and headed to Ben Gurion airport. Security there was tight but really it seemed pretty much what it had been on our previous trip.
At 4:50am Israel time (9:50pm January 5th EDT), we boarded our KLM flight 462 from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam. But wait, we're supposed to be in first class, we're supposed to have big comfy seats in which we can sleep but there are no big comfy seats I can see. Just normal rows of coach class seats. Yes, first class on this flight would be normal coach seats (with the middle seat free), and a gauze curtain separating row 5 from row 6. This was not what was pictured on the plane map on the KLM site when we chose our seats! Oh well, after getting over my initial disappointment, I settled in for the flight. The service was still first class though, and my three travel companions managed to sleep. I did not, but they brought me this cute, portable entertainment device (there was no entertainment on this five hour flight), on which they had a selection of about a dozen movies. I watched Love Happens (don't waste your time), and, oh shoot, my brain is fried. It was a Bruce Willis movie ... got it Surrogate. Oh, but then they collected the device for landing and I had like five or 10 minutes left so I don't know how it ended!
We landed at Schipol early about 9:15 am Schipol time,10:15am Tel Aviv Time, and for those of you playing our game, 3:15 am January 6th EST. At this point, we'd been traveling 8.25 hours. We headed for the Crown lounge.
A note here, there are signs in Schipol for "lounges." These are not the first class lounges. We think these mean areas within the airport where people can sit and relax - and they're pretty nice (comfy chairs). So we had to follow the signs for airline lounges - it was a ten minute walk.
Another note, as I mentioned, we originally had planned to visit the city but when the crotch bomber attacked (thank you Colleen - love that name), and we heard stories of heightened security, we decided to not go. Of course, when we checked in at the lounge, the attendant there suggested we visit the city during our layover. When we commented on the timing because of security she said, "Oh, no. You could go. Nothing has changed." Huh? We glanced at Sammi though, who assuming we weren't going wore jeans with the hugest holes in them and flip flops on her feet. Not exactly conducive to walking around in 32 degree temps. So we decided to stay at the airport.
We shopped, we ate a bit, we drank, Becky slept in the quiet area of the lounge, we played Rummy cube and at 3:45pm Amsterdam time (4:45pm TA, 9:45am EST), we made our way to the gate for security check and boarding. That's another thing you should know about Schipol. I do not know if you go through security when you arrive at the airport (i.e., after check in but before boarding as in the US), but I do know at the very least, you go through security as part of your boarding procedure.
Of course, though we were there when they told us to be there, at 4:00pm, they did not start security until 4:25pm.
We were the first to go through, and let me tell you, I got more action from that security guard then I've seen from Chris lately. I don't think there was a spot on my body that she didn't touch. They also searched my bag. We limited ourselves to only one carry on (checking two bags each) and there were signs saying, only one carry-on would be allowed, but we did notice a handful of people with two - so not sure what is up with that.
After the four of us made it through security, we sat in another area (think bullpen) that's closed off from the rest of the airport and waited to board the plane. The girls and I watched the security and it seemed every single person was patted down and/or wanded and every bag was hand-searched.
At about 5:10pm Amseterdam time (6:10pm Tel Aviv, 11:10am EST), we boarded. At this point, we'd been traveling for about 15 hours.
Then we waited, and waited, and waited. Oh, I should tell you it started to snow about 3:45pm. On the plane, at about 6:00pm (we were scheduled to take off at 5:45pm), the cabin announced that the airport was closing for 3.5 hours because of the snow. There was, maybe, at most, two inches on the ground. Apparently the Netherlands do not get much snow, nor do they know what to do with it when they get it (this from the Dutch gentlemen behind us).
You have no idea how upset I was, but as the cockpit said, "It's okay though because it gives us time to finish boarding the plane!" Huh!!! We were supposed to take off at 5:45 and there were people still in security at 6:15pm.
At 7:00pm (1:00pm, EST), they announced that the airport had managed to open a runway and as we had just finished boarding (7:00pm!!!!!), we were going to push back from the gate and get de-iced and get in-line for take off but this could take a while, because so many planes were waiting to take off and land.
It went quick though, and we were hopeful (apparently they padded the flight times by 90 minutes, so there was still a chance we could get in close to on time). At 7:30pm, the snow had stopped, we were getting de-iced and things look good. Until...
We moved over to the line for the runway, and sat there. And sat, and other planes passed us by, and we sat some more.
At 8:00pm (2:00pm EST), the cockpit got on to tell us our Flight Navigation Computer had failed, and they needed to replace the computer and reload the software and that it would take an hour and we had to return to the terminal.
Oh, one plus to KLM (and only one), did I mention that they at least turned on the Entertainment System? So at least we had watched UP (again) while we were waiting. I think Beck can quote the entire movie.
At 8:15pm (2:15pm EST) the computer was fixed and the software was loading but uh oh....
Because of our delay, one of our pilots was going to go over his shift time and we needed to get a new one, but he was on his way. Chris thinks this was a lie. He thinks because of the problems with the navigation computer, they needed to get a navigator on the plane. I think, that at 6:00, when they told us the airport would be closed for 3.5 hours, they knew the pilot was going to be over his shift time, so why didn't the summon a new pilot then? Either way, things got squirrelly. He was at the airport and should be on the plane shortly.
At 9:00pm they told us he just arrived at the airport, and should be on the plane in 10 - 15 minutes.
At 9:25pm they told us he was on his way to the airport but because of the snow (stopped now for 2.5 hours), there was a lot of traffic and he had just arrived at the airport. Huh? How many times does it take a KLM pilot to arrive at the airport?
At 9:55pm (3:55pm EST), the pilot arrived and about 10:15pm, over five hours since we'd boarded the plane, 4.5 hours since we were supposed to depart, 21 hours into our travel day, we departed Amsterdam.
The flight was uneventful, luckily, from that point on. And at 11:15pm EST (6:15am Tel Aviv Time), 26 hours after we left our hotel, we landed at JFK. It took about 10 minutes to get off the plane, It took us about 10 minutes to get through immigration and another 10 - 15 minutes to get our luggage and get through Customs (there was actually a line) and about midnight, we piled into the van sent to pick us up.
At 1:15am EST (8:15am Tel Aviv time), on January 7th, after over 30 hours of travel, we walked into our home, to one happy dog, who proceeded to lick all of us and piddle on the floor.
It's good to be home.