On board Lufthansa Flight 116 from Frankfurt to Munich, Germany
Not to give away the end of our dramatic story for the day….but close readers of our blog (and certainly the grandmothers) will notice that we aren’t supposed to be here right now.
Yada. Yada Yada. Back to Sunday afternoon. We saw Newsies on Broadway, which all of us LOVED. We’re told that it’s even better if you haven’t seen the movie yet. Since the movie came out about the time of our engagement…and we weren’t yet attending every Disney flick imaginable, this was our first introduction to the plot line. (and we won’t give away the secret ending).
We LOVE the restaurant Bond 45 (keep asking for the waiter named James to no avail…even if they give me a look (as if they hadn’t heard that one before)). To see Lynn and celebrate Leah’s 5th birthday, we feasted on fresh mozzarella, fried artichokes (a la Jewish ghetto in Rome), fresh pasta and pizza, and for me, a prime rib steak (with a glass of Malbec in Ruben’s honor).
Walk. Walk. Walk. Next from Broadway to the Plaza Hotel on Central Park to see the Lezak-Kushners, get some candy and ice cream, and get back to the hotel before midnight, lest folks imagine us lousy parents.
With a noon wake up for the girls…and a walk back and forth to Broadway for a particular pair of shoes (Pop quiz: How many men, other than me and other than employees, could be found in the shoe store? Answer below).
Thanks to modern technology, we received a text and an automated phone call from United (feh feh) Airlines telling us our 7:30 pm departure from Newark to Frankfurt was delayed to 8:00 pm due to a delayed aircraft arrival from Shanghai (apparently, we imagined, the plane we were supposed to take to Europe).
In a 14 passenger van that reminded the Weiss and Dollinger families of their 4 hour journey from Entebbe Airport in Uganda to Mbale, Uganda (though without the live chicken under the seat, fresh fish tied to the front (to keep it cold in the 80 degree heat; that’s for you Larry), random brothers, sisters, cousins, and one mom who entered and exited the vehicle at will, OK there was little similarity between the experiences (except when, in the midst of a torrential downpour in northern New Jersey, the windshield wiper blew off the windshield, leaving the driver with even less visibility. (I offered to hop out and chase it down the New Jersey Turnpike but the driver just smiled.) I took that as a “no.”
Waiting in line to check in at United (feh feh) Airlines, I received yet another phone call, delaying the flight from 8:00-8:30 pm, due to that same delay from China. (Hey, my sister Cynthia is flying to China today from L.A. I wonder…)
Check in, security (and aren’t those Dollingers nimble now…each with one suitcase (rolling) and one carry on (rolling), looking so darn professional as they make their way through security…until my carry on is tagged for having far far too many wires inside. Marci’s in charge of snacks. I’m in charge of wires. It works well for all of us that way.
Phone call. United “feh feh” Airlines, delayed now to 9 pm. You can guess…
Taking over a small corner of Newark Airport’s United “feh feh” Airlines terminal, the Weiss and Dollinger families made camp until 7:30, the scheduled arrival time of the China flight. No plane. Update: Delay to 9:50 pm.
YAHOO! Plane boarding at 9:15… kind of… Boarding group 1 heads down the jetway. (We are blessed with boarding group 5). Boarding group 1 stands in jetway. 350 other passengers stand en wait. Flight delayed now to 10 pm. Boarding Group 1 asked to turn around and leave jetway. Gate agent explains that the lights on the plane were working when she let boarding group 1 down the jetway but since they now malfunctioned, we had a “maintenance hold.” (Alas, I think this was all invented so the UAL (save the feh feh) could blame the delay on a mechanical issue and not have to report this to the FAA “on time departure” department.
Apparently, this was enough for a few of the first class passengers who looked none too happy with this all. They would miss their connection so they just decided to go home.
At this point, two officers from the Newark Airport Police showed up, one of each side of the boarding door, in case any of us were thinking about getting hostile. (and the fun hadn’t even begun!).
CHEERS throughout the gate area when they re-boarded the jet. FINALLY, after 10 pm, we get on board….to wait…and wait…and wait…for “last minute luggage.” How could there be last minute luggage when our flight was already 3 hours delayed?
Then, the pilot comes on and begins his announcement with the word, “unfortunately.” Turns out that when a passenger decides to give up on the flight and go home, they have to open the belly of the aircraft, start pulling out those big canisters of suitcases, find each and every suitcase belonging to those passengers, and remove them. We waited… Looking at the clock… Coming to the conclusion that because a few folks left the plane because they already missed their connection, there would be hundreds more (get the foreshadowing) who would now, as a consequence, miss theirs).
Already long story, long, we pushed back from the gate at 12:10 am.
Intense thunder storms off the east coast and lots of bouncing around for an hour. Can it get worse? Food service (at 1:00 am) only to have the captain order the crew back to their seats as the row IN FRONT OF US gets food. 1:30 am food, 2:00 am cleared, then (and only then) can I go to the overhead and check our connecting tickets to Budapest…Not a freaking chance to make that connection.
Irony alert: Kudos to United Airlines for knowing that over 200 passengers missed their connections. Then, offering no instructions on what to do to rebook, leaving passengers to game the various airport employees, lines, (before and after immigration and customs, and security, wondering if we’re even supposed to move through all these signposts, not knowing how to get rebooked.). We ended up about 50th in line at the departure check in area, where two (count them 1, 2) agents of United, here it is “feh feh” Airlines, were rebooking some, getting hotel vouchers for most, as the minutes and hours ticked away waiting in this very very slow moving line as our possible rebook flights leave, one after the next.
Meanwhile, both Rebecca and Shayna are AWESOME. They retreated to the seating area, fell asleep over each other, and held it together (even as Shayna decided to pull an all-nighter on the flight to Frankfurt).
Marci heads to the Lufthansa desk to use her charm to see if they’ll rebook us since we’re on a Lufthansa flight anyway. While no rebooking, we learn that Lufthansa employees talk about how miserable UAL (enough) is to its customers, how this happens constantly, and they get lots of irate fliers. (Did we also mention United breaks guitars?) (If you don’t get that joke, check Utube video of the same name.)
I thought about dancing the hora when I got to the front of the line, but given the locale, I abstained. While the two non-stops to Budapest left today were overbooked, she did find us this flight to Budapest via Munich.
With 40 Euro food voucher from that airline whose name won’t be mentioned, feh feh, we grabbed some stuff and headed to our next flight. (through security, yada yada yada).
NEWS FLASH: Shayna spots her suitcase being loaded onto the Munich aircraft. Yeah. In fact, the entire cart driven out to the plane contained just four pieces of luggage, each and every one handy with wheels J. The day is looking brighter. Lufthansa has a newspaper rack that’s FREE, with English papers. Then, they have a coffee, hot chocolate, cappuccino machine that, get this, is also FREE. Mah ha’hevdel beyn UAL v’Lufthansa (what’s the difference between UAL and Lufthansa)? Marci said it, “I can’t believe I love Lufthansa.” Agreed.
With all of us asleep for the short one hour flight to Munich, we barely realized we had changed airports when we landed. The flight attendant was so sympathetic, she handed us each a cup of water on landing and wished us safe travels. We wonder if Lufthansa has a frequent flier program?! Bye bye United credit card.
And now, (I don’t know how many hours since we woke up in NYC), we are sitting in the Munich airport waiting for the flight to Budapest.
Meanwhile, the Weiss’ rented a car in Frankfurt and started the 10 hour drive to Budapest, the start of their 2-week driving tour of central and eastern Europe. Who will make it first to our hotel in Budapest? Stay tuned.