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A Quick Trip To Frankfurt and England

Jeff Holmes (Jeff H)

So, You've Got an Interview in Frankfurt on Monday, eh?

Jeff needed to be in Frankfurt on Monday for two days of interviews, after which he was headed to UK for more. This is a short summary of events trying, trying, trying to get there.


It's Friday and I have lined up my flights to Frankfurt where I am interviewing several people for a job based in UK: first Frankfurt, then Maidenhead in England, over a two day period, starting Monday. From Frankfurt I will be flying up to England and staying in an old haunt in downtown Reading and will interview two or three additional people over in Maidenhead. This looks good!

Since I want to demonstrate to my prospective employer that I am careful with their money (they're footing the bill for my travels), I go for the least expensive alternatives in terms of flights. I'm leaving on Saturday evening and basically have a day and a half to get there, a couple of cheapo flights won't affect the schedule, right? Even a few logistical problems can be overcome with 24 hours to spare.

I have made a huge mistake.

SATURDAY, FLIGHT ONE

Delta "puddle jumper" from Boston to JFK: I am waiting to board. A sudden thunderstorm envelops Logan airport, we're boarding 20 minutes late and the weather still looks dicey. Now we're driving in circles around the tarmac waiting for clearance to take off. Finally, we're off, about one hour late. This means I have a 20 minute connection to Singapore Air headed for Frankfurt in JFK. This ain't gonna happen ... and it doesn't.

As I am leaving the Delta flight in JFK, I explain my predicament to the Delta representative and explain that I need her to call the Singapore Airline's Frankfurt departing gate while I run over there. Over there, she explains is the International Terminal and there is no way, they have closed the departure gate and are gone. OK, book me onto something going to Frankfurt. Well, it's now about 9:30 at night and there is nothing. OK, I'll take tomorrow night's Singapore airline flight, just get me my luggage. Sorry, due to security, your luggage will be held over by Security at Singapore Air and their counter is now closed for the night, that was their last flight out! So, can you at least book me for tomorrow, I ask. She does, but warns me to check with Singapore at the International Terminal tomorrow to be sure. Get me some snacks and I am outta here!

Now what? No luggage, nowhere to stay. Well, I'll take the airport train over to International and check things out. Perhaps there's a comfy seat near a WIFI area and I'll just "surf and snooze" all night, and all day tomorrow!

It's about 1:00am and I've had it with these concrete floors and metal seats. By now, I know this terminal inside and out and while there is a good WIFI spot, I have to sit on the floor. I'm getting a room! The guy behind the "Travel" counter in baggage claim calls the nearest hotel – Hilton - and I head for the Hilton, without so much as a toothbrush or razor or change of socks. After buying a few toiletries from the hotel store, which had to be opened just for me, and rinsing out my delicates, I sleep in until noon (checkout time), just enough time to let my stuff dry on the air conditioner.

Now, to call Europe. I explain that I will not be arriving in Frankfurt until around 10:30am Monday and by the time I get to the hotel in Frankfurt, it'll be noon, so let's just shoot for Tuesday instead. It flies.

Back to International. Singapore Air's ticket counter doesn't even open until 5pm, so now I have another four hours to kill. Well, at least I know the territory. Beginning to miss my luggage, though and wonder how and if it'll ever end up on this flight with me, unless someone intervenes - how does security know I've rebooked to tonight's flight?

Coffee, lunch, more coffee, people-watching; this is awful, but 5pm rolls around and I see the Singapore agent behind the counter. No, you do not have a reservation and this flight is full, I am told. But Delta made the reservation last night. No, they didn't. They put you on the wait list, but you have no seat. Wanna stay on the wait list? We should know by 8:45pm or so, whether we have a seat for you. No, I am not spending another four hours hanging around with no guarantee of a seat, get me my luggage and I'll make other arrangements. I cannot authorize release of your luggage since you are not officially a customer of Singapore Airlines at this point. You will have to go to Security yourself to explain your situation and get your luggage. I've been at this for close to 24 hours! The last four of which I've been sitting on the floor right here in front of your counter, waiting for you to show up. I am not pleased with how I have been treated. I am not going to Security, get the supervisor!

SUNDAY/MONDAY, FLIGHT TWO

The supervisor's a nice guy. He sets me up in their Business Class lounge, while he extricates my luggage from Security. He's shows up with my luggage after about an hour and announces he's gotten me on tonight's flight – Business Class, upper cabin. This is Singapore Air's way of making up for the inconvenience, over which they had no control. The first (and as it turn out only) positive turn of events!

Arrive in Frankfurt 24 hours after originally intended. Show the cabbie the Hotel name and address. He thinks and ponders and muses. In the stupor I am in and in the mood I am in, I waiting for him to announce that: 1. He has no idea where this hotel is; 2. It's in Stuttgart; 3. It burned down last night. Instead he says he's pretty sure he knows where it is and off we go. Sure enough, about 30 minutes later, we arrive at Relexa, Lurguialee in the western suburbs of Frankfurt. It is out of the way.

Now it dawns on me that because I was a no-show last night and never called them, the hotel may have "debooked" me for tonight. Exactly, but they have rooms. I am told that it is customary to charge for the unused night, since I am a "no show" and I did not call to cancel, but the front desk attendant sees my expression and says since I am here for tonight and have not cancelled altogether, the hotel will not charge me for last night. Boy, a shower and some clean clothes are gonna feel good. Call the office to let them know of my arrival. I am to meet a bunch of them at the hotel bar sometime after 6pm. This will not constitute an interview, but will help us get to know one another before tomorrow's meetings.

TUESDAY, FLIGHT THREE

Things have gone well and I am on my way to Frankfurt airport for my flight to Heathrow, with a couple of hours to spare. This is a flight I changed on the web this morning in the office, since it leaves earlier than the one I booked last Friday, not knowing how late we'd finish up, given what I knew then.

Frankfurt Airport is a madhouse; the run up to the World Cup has people out and about, I guess. Long baggage check line. Finally through the line and X-Ray and on to the counter. No, they do not have my reservation. Could things possibly get any more screwed up on this trip? The web page, you see, may take one or two days to update the reservation system and since I made the change just this morning, it is not showing up on the airline's system. Well, I'll just buy another ticket and you promise not to bill me twice – ha-ha. Sorry, ticket purchasing is that line over there and take your luggage. But my luggage has already been scanned – this means I'll have to wait in the ticket line and then the luggage line all over again? Yes. OK.

Over to ticket purchase, where the line is fortunately rather short. They promise NOT to bill me twice - ha-ha. Back to luggage check line, work my way slowly through again, where the counter agent announces that I am now too late and cannot make the flight I have just booked for the second time and for which I have paid twice! This is because the airport now has three additional levels of security on the way out to the gate and it is not possible for me to navigate all three since my gate is at the very end of the concourse. OK, book me on the very next one to Heathrow, which leaves in 90 minutes - later than my original booking before I changed it this morning! Sorry, that flight is full!

I may become a security risk, if this keeps up! Am I frustrated? No, ANGRY: angry with myself for even thinking that I should expect smooth sailing between three airports in two days; angry with the guy who suggested I switch flights this morning; angry with the online travel site that is not connected to the airline's reservation system in real time; angry with the double line shuffle back and forth between baggage, ticketing and baggage; angry with the extra levels of security; angry with the location of the gate; angry with the lack of comfortable seating at JFK airport; and angry with Delta Airlines and that damn thunderstorm!

Swallow hard, count to 10, deep breathe – can I get to Heathrow today? Of course, I can wait list on the full flight out at the gate. Rather than start verbally assaulting the whole airport staff (who are really only doing their jobs), this is the option I choose. Out to the gate I schlep. He was right, this takes close to 30 minutes due to the security checkpoints and the overall distance. I check with the attendant at the gate, who adds my name to the wait list and settle in to people watch for an hour or so.

My name is announced! I am getting on this flight and actually headed to UK! Boy, am I lucky, things couldn't have worked out better ON THIS TRIP!


Jeff lives in NH and has had a few harrowing experiences over his 20+ years of international travel.

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