Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The WORST of airports and the BEST of flights (or In the Vaterland)

It's going to be a long day.  I have my alarm clock set for 5 am to be able to finish some translation work and finish clearing out my hotel room before 9 am.  At 10:30 am I am on the SeaBus from North Vancouver, which will connect me to a rapid transit train to the airport.

The check-in line-up at the Lufthansa counter stretches through half the airport.  A panic-exuding woman in a Lufthansa uniform runs shouting through the ranks of suitcase-laden victims and shouts at them "Did you check in at home?"  Half the passengers don't even know what that means and then have to self-check-in at a computer terminal before they are allowed to join another line to drop off their suitcases.  This reminds me of another completely out-of-control check-in procedure. Where was that again where they treated people like cattle, where employees were walking down the corralled lines shouting and I swore I never would go back to?  Oh right. RyanAir at London Stansted.  The nightmare has come to Lufthansa and Vancouver.

Welcome to YVR (not my pic)

When I ask the people-directer at the funnel-in point of the security corral where the people are that are supposed to man the 5 out of 10 security check-points that are not operating while the lines of people keep getting longer and longer, he says "They are not here".  I then tell him that maybe it would be time to man those counters and stop treating people like cattle. He admits that I am correct, but that the people responsible for decisions at this airport don't think of us as people but as numbers of units processed.  Who were they bribing to be given the "Best Airport in North Americal"  award? Oh. It was a survey? That makes sense then since a large percentage of surveyed travellers will be Vancouverites who are better at nothing than unjustifiably being full of themselves. Yes, I admit, I am full of myself too, but I'm justified ;-)

Thanks to the Non-efforts of the security people, I finally get to walk towards my departure gate 10 minutes before the scheduled take-off time.  I don't walk particularly fast because I had noticed a few old ladies in the security line-up also having Lufthansa stickers on their boarding luggage.

My ride !
Still, I expect an announcement with my name on the PA system any minute but when I reach the gate, I see another HUGE line-up. They haven't even started boarding yet and the plane is scheduled to take off in 5 minutes!

The plane takes off an hour late, but I don't care any more.  I had purchased the cheapest ticket Vancouver-Frankfurt and Paris-Vancouver on Expedia and paid even less than a friend of mine paid a few weeks ago for the flight Vancouver Frankfurt return.  Expedia had already assigned me the seat number 11K.  The chaos at check-in prevented me from getting to the counter to possibly ask for an emergency row seat to get a bit of extra leg room. When I present my boarding pass to the greeter stewardess at the plane's door, she directs me to the LEFT.  Even though I paid economy, I am flying Business Class.  When I see the fully reclining seats with their VAST leg and elbow room, I stop asking why and just make myself comfortable.  Even with my legs fully stretched out, I am not able to reach the seat in front of me.

Creature comforts take over. Is that free wine in a real glass?  Is that a table cloth?

Is that dinner? NO. This is the appetizer ;-).  .

After the appetizer, I eat most of my main course, then I set my fully adjustable seat (it has a massage function!) to the flat sleeping position and I'm asleep before they even bring the dessert cheese plate. A thoughtful and quiet stewardess removes the half-full wine glass from my armrest while I sleep.

When the flight-information system on the screen informs me (probably before dinner) that we are passing close to Lake Athabasca I catch some blurry bright spots in the darkness below and my heart fills with sorrow thinking at the First Nations towns down below, where whole families have been decimated by cancer deaths caused by the ruthless and merciless processing of the tar sands below that focusses on profit and growth and apparently happily accepts a few hundred dead Indians as an acceptable cost. Not much has changed in the minds of people.  Here is a link to an Excellent and scary documentary on that subject.

When the first light of the new day can be barely anticipated at the horizon, I notice that we're approaching the coast of Holland.  Below me are quite a few individual lights of individual large ships and ahead the bright lights of a big city. 

When we're right above it, I recognize the strange vagina-art-like pattern of canals in the centre, because I walked down there in August. 

This is Amsterdam!

And the timing is JUST RIGHT today: while it was dawn when passing Amsterdam, the sun rises when we bank around a last curve to land in Frankfurt.

We land at Frankfurt before 8 am, and despite then enormous flight volume at one of Europe's largest airports there is NO line-up at passport control (hear that YVR?). There IS a smoking booth on the way to the luggage carousels (hear that YVR?). I don't have to wait for luggage since I have none, so the time between leaving the plane and passing through the un-manned customs stations is 10 minutes (hear that YVR?). 

Since my Wind Mobile phone does NOT roam in Germany (It roams in Holland!), I buy a cheap Samsung prepaid phone at the airport.  A 22 Euro taxi ride then gets me to my hotel. in nearby Walldorf. Those 22 Euros are more than I paid in July to take my bicycle on Air Transat, which I then used to cycle from Frankfurt Airport to Walldorf!

It still is morning and sunny when I walk by that fabulous Thai restaurant, where I ate very well last July.

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