Flying’s easy and comfortable, right?

Summer festivals, all over Europe (and in my case even a few in Japan this year). The perfect way to go about, is by plane… fast and comfortable. You spend a bit more money than if you’d go by car or train, but you get there fast and relaxed. right? not!

I’m not sure how many flights I did exactly this summer, but every single one of them had some (minor or very major) issue…

It all started early june, when I had to go to Sweden with Porcupine Tree; I never even ‘knew’ there was a bit of highway in Holland with a draw bridge…. but I found out about it on the way to the airport. signal that the bridge will be raised to let a ship pass. The left half goes up, our half takes a bit longer… and a bit longer… and longer still… why doesn’t it go up? “Hey, we’re somewhat in a hurry, not really yet, but if we wait here much longer, we will… just open the barrier and let us pass while you sort this problem; we’re waiting here for more than 20 minutes already”… nothing…. and again, nothing… ah, finally…. the other half goes down again, and the warning light’s turned off… let’s go…. frrlllttl…. the engine’s revving, and… comes to a full stop! Just our luck, 5 seconds before we could depart, the battery just decided it had done enough, keeping us warm (did I say it was 5AM and about 5 degrees outside even though it was mid June?)… stuck on the fast lane, with trucks passing both sides; let’s push the car to the side of the road. well, let’s call the road services then… they should be here soon…. no is the answer “we’re stuck on the highway because of an open bridge” … I told them that news was old by now and solved (since 20 minutes). About one hour later it took the service guy a simple jump start with a new battery to get us going again…. just in time to buy a new plane ticket for the next available flight. on the way back, there was considerably less trouble… none, actually.

Next flight; better luck? Off to Finland. imagine, you leave home around 8pm, for an 11pm flight. You get a light snack before leaving, and then have dinner with your travel partners at the airport. A bit decadent maybe, but why not? So, past customs and luggage check… let’s find a place to eat. Food plaza is closed… heeeuy?!!?!… why? it’s not even 10pm, and Amsterdam is almost the biggest airport of Europe. OK, off to the next place.. they forward to a sandwich bar with hot food. let’s get some Italian panini then, with grilled cheese…. “No sorry sir, we just cleaned the grill. we won’t make you any”… then get me one cold? Please? “No sir, can’t do that”… on to the gate then… let’s see if the coffee bar at least has some sandwiches… nothing, and they’re closed too. all this, knowing that when arriving in Helsinki at 2am nothing will be open anymore (but you CAN read a book outside at that time, it’s that bright, still).

On the way back this time we had a lot of trouble… turned out the original plane had some damage, they got us a new plane, but without crew… and the next available flight would be 5 hours later…. yay! Armed with dinner tickets we watched a movie, waiting for us to get hungry. but of course, as soon as the movie was finished, and we were hungry, the restaurant had closed (8pm), so we could only go to the sandwich bar and get 50eur worth of sandwiches, wine, beer, candy and more sandwiches…

Later I heard that our travel partners who took a return flight several days later, got stuck on the runway… while taxiing the plane suffered a power outage, and there they were… on the runway, no power, no airco… just waiting.

Then we’re off to Italy. you’d expect that booking a ‘proper flight’ instead of a budget airline, you’d get a proper seat and treatment. but wait a minute… overbooked flight. of course. I was there 3 hours before departure (instead of 2) and I already heard I’d be on a standby seat… eventually i happened to be the last of 3 standby passengers to be allowed on the flight.

Next up for me, was a trip to Japan and back. not much trouble, just very minor delays of about 1 hour per trip.

And then spain… oh dear, another holiday destination… they’d better not have my seat overbooked. Luckily for them, they haven’t… But instead, they came up wirth something more original. While I get my boarding tickets printed, the hostess already tells me I’ll have ‘some delay’ (at which time i find out i’ll miss my connecting flight in Barcelona) thanks!… a lot, really!…. After waiting for more than two hours (where’s our vouchers for complimentary ‘compensatory’ drinks/snacks?)… supposedly waiting for a plane that has been called from Brussels (the Spanish plane can’t depart from Barcelona) to take us to Barcelona. but then, the announcement of a cancelled flight; due to air personnel on strike… great!…. we all rush to the ticket desk to get refunds or new tickets; I don’t even have to go to Barcelona, it’s just a layover airport for me… waited for 5 hours (they didn’t want to spend too much money on getting Spanish people in Dutch hotels) but finally I got a new ticket; next morning, at silly-o-clock. just in time for me to go back home for dinner, watch a movie and jump on the last night train again back to the airport.

That must have been all the bad luck one can have, right? no…. on the way back, both connecting flights had  – again – a delay. The first one with the funniest excuse to date; first the plane (I’m flying to Madrid, no way I’m going via Barcelona) just doesn’t show up (or is there a strike in Madrid now?)…. finally , 2,5 hours too late, a plane shows up. we board, we wait…. “our apologies for the delay, we have some issue now, since we only have half a cabin crew for this flight, we can only take 80 passengers…. we have 81 passengers currently. and we cannot take off until 1 person leaves the plane” (the ironic detail begin that about 15 cabin and cockpit crew from affiliated airlines are on board). The connecting flight in Madrid had ONLY one hour of delay,.. praise the lord; one hour is nothing!

This summer’s last trip; Hamburg-Zurich-Amsterdam was almost too easy. Good airlines, no holiday desitinations, early times…. So here it comes: we go to the gate; check in… get on the bus, with a 10 minute delay… set off to the plane….. and turn around! we get back to the gate, get off the bus, to hear that personnel is performing a routine technical check on the plane, and we’re requested to wait in the lobby until then. OK… well, hey it’s better to fly late than flying unsafe, right? so we arrive at the gate again, “sorry… because the plane was hit by lightning we can’t use this plane, please proceed to this and that gate, and here’s a lunch voucher”

That was it and that was that. flying is relaxing, yeah.. right.

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