(Alternative title: A 150 Euro taxi ride to nowhere)
(Alternative title #2: Oh Lufthansa, where art thou?)
I have been traveling all over the world for business for the last 10 years – I even managed to get a Gold status with Aegean Airlines at some point, as a frequent flyer. In these 10 years I only once missed a flight (it was due to long security/passport controls in the U.S. but I was lucky enough to be rebooked to the next flight). I was lucky enough but also did my best to be always on time for my flights.
Last Sunday, I had to fly to Berlin through Frankfurt for business purposes with Lufthansa. I had the option of taking an earlier direct flight to Berlin, but I opted to spend some more time with my family on Sunday, who wouldn’t?
I arrived on time at the Athens airport but the flight was delayed by more than 1 hour minutes (I cannot recall exactly) “due to the plane arriving delayed in Athens”. To make a long story short (and this is a really long story!) we reached Frankfurt airport only to find out that the last flight to Berlin had just taken off on time, leaving the remaining passengers waiting at the airport. A helpful lady at the gate informed me about the good news and the bad news:
The good news were that I would get a hotel voucher, a couple of vouchers for the taxi (from and to the airport) and a 10EUR voucher for a snack, as the hotel kitchen would be closed by the time I reached it. I would also be re-booked on the early morning Lufthansa flight to Berlin – but I would have to be at the airport no later than 06.15.
The bad news: The hotel was about 90 km from the airport (!!), so something about 50 mins by taxi… and this is where all hell breaks loose:
- I couldn’t find where to use my snack voucher and wasted precious time (as I realized later on); in the end I found a place, where I got a couple of sandwiches just before it closed for the night.
- I went out in the freezing cold (-1 oC) waiting for a taxi – there was no queue, and taxi drivers came out of nowhere, picked up customers randomly and left
- I got myself a taxi but the taxi driver hardly spoke English and he did not know where the hotel was; his bloody GPS could not pick up a signal and I was trying to explain to him that since we had stopped under a bridge it would be hard to get a signal. After spending about 15 mins waiting for the GPS, he brought a second one from the trunk and it actually worked.
- In the meantime, I tried using my smartphones for the same purpose (actually, the taxi driver insisted on it); however, my Lumia was running out of battery (and later I realized that I had only downloaded the Berlin offline maps before leaving home) while my backup smartphone did not have any offline German maps at all.
- On the way to the hotel, the driver explained to me that there were no rooms in Frankfurt due to a large exhibition taking place during these days – lucky me!
- I had to be at the airport at 06.15 – the driver told me to get a taxi earlier than 05.00 from the hotel, as there could be heavy Monday traffic later on…
- When I finally reached the hotel, I realized that there were dozens of passengers facing the same issue as me; everyone had a pack of vouchers and they were all directed to the same hotel from the airport…a long queue before I could get my key for the room. At least I managed to book a taxi for 04.30 next morning.
- I only had about 4 hours available for sleep; however, I had to take a shower, eat my snacks, send a couple of urgent emails (e.g. informing the hotel at Berlin for my absence and let them know when I would check in) and re-arrange my stuff in my small wheeled backpack (the issues of traveling packed)
- I was so worried that I would not hear the alarm in the morning that I kept checking the clock every 15 mins. In the meantime, I could hear people leaving their rooms so I gave up and woke up at 03.50.
- I picked up my phones which I left charging overnight, only to realize that my main phone was not plugged properly, so charging had stopped at about 60% – not good enough for the long day ahead of me.
- There was no traffic, no long security queues, no nothing – so I found myself waiting at the gate at about 05.30; 45 mins before expected. On top of that the Lufthansa flight was for once more delayed (something like 30 minutes). This time it was the ground team to blame, as they did not start preparing the plane early enough…enough with pathetic excuses!
I finally reached Berlin, found my way to the TXL bus and reached my hotel, which was almost next to the meeting place. I paid a visit to make sure that I still had a room (got no response to my email so far) and leave some of my stuff in the room. At the reception, I was informed that they did not receive my email and I should have called them instead to let them know of the situation! Bloody hell…
In the end they found me a room and also allowed me to use their fast WiFi connection at no cost (which I never did, as costs may incur out of nowhere in hotels). Went upstairs, left my stuff (clothes and wash bag) and headed to the meeting place. It took me 10 mins to find the entrance, as Google maps showed the main entrance of the building while the organizers had used a side door instead. Relieved, I entered the building, heading to the 5th floor, where the meeting was taking place (and I was already 1 hour late); lucky me – the elevator was out of order so I had to use the stairs, packed with my (still heavy) wheeled backpack!
My presentation was the last one in the agenda, and by that time I could hardly keep my eyes open – let alone delivering a decent presentation. Supported by several cups of coffee in the meantime, I managed to do a good job (as my friends in the audience told me later). However, I had to decline the offer for drinks and dinner right after the meeting, as I was really exhausted. I just went back to the hotel to get some decent sleep.
A hard day was over; but not the hellish trip… (to be continued)