(Written Jan 2nd, uploaded today, Jan 4th, because I have wifi!)
Last night, over yet another family dinner, we discussed how we were going to get to the airport. DB’s dad had already agreed to take us, but there are at least a million variables to be taken into consideration. Whether we’d drive to their house, or have him drive to ours. Which car to go in. Where to park the other car (“What other car?!” “The one we don’t take to the airport..” “That one stays exactly where it is on the drive..” “Oh yeah, we don’t need to take it anywhere” “No. (Duh)”). After we’d gone through all the complicated stuff, it was time to choose a time. We decided between 6:45 and 7:00 would be a good time to set out, tending more towards 7:00.
At 6:39 this morning, DB’s dad rang the door bell. ARGH. So much for relaxing mornings. Thankfully we’d finished packing last night and just needed to get the last minute things together. I forgot my algae tablets* in the rush, but they are voluntary (though very helpful), so it’s not really a problem.
We got our stuff in the car and headed for the airport.
The roads were as good as empty, which can’t be said of the airport. ‘Bustling’ doesn’t cut it, neither does ‘popular’ or ‘thriving’. Jam-packed is closer to the truth, but doesn’t imply the 30+ minute queues, just to get into the queue to check hold luggage in.
The queue for the queue lead past, or rather through, the arrivals gate, and past the café, resulting in unwanted pushing and shoving of the people who’d just landed, and all the people who were waiting to pick them up, and the people who wanted to buy coffee, and the people queuing for the queue. And all the queue jumpers. (Queue jumpers make me mad. The barriers are there for a reason, and unless your flight’s been called or you have a very good reason for pushing past me, I can’t find it in me to smile at you..).
I don’t exactly mind queuing, as long as I know what I’m queuing for, and that everyone is going to get the same whatever-it-is at the end. If I have a deadline, like a plane to catch, I’d like there to be a chance to achieve it legally. It shouldn’t be necessary to jump queues. I see no benefit in checking your luggage in before everyone else, except maybe choosing which seat you want… unless you happen to be in an airport where all destinations use the same check-in-desks. Those are my least favourite airports.
I find Stansted airport brilliant. There are a few others which are just as good, but mostly less well known, or at least not as busy, so I’ll go with Stansted in this example. Each destination has its own check-in desks, and the boards show you where to stand. Once you’ve handed in your luggage, you’re directed to the hand luggage scanners, and from there the gates are well signposted and there are even times written on the signs to tell you how long it will take to get there (gate 37, 4 minutes this way ->). Passport control is just before the gates, and there are toilets at regular intervals along all the corridors. Easy.
Berlin Tegel is, through no fault of its own, drastically and chronically overfilled. The new airport hasn’t been completed yet, and all the passengers have to go somewhere. I can see that. Even without glasses.
What I don’t understand is the logic behind making all the check-in-desks open to ALL the passengers. The leave-it-to-the-last-minute people (like me) have no chance to roll in 10 minutes before their check-in closes and still fly.
Anyway. Just over an hour after we arrived at the airport, we arrived at the check in desk.
The nice lady-behind-the-counter took our passports and flight coupon and was about to press the button to let the conveyor belt steal our luggage, when something clicked in her head, or on the screen. “Um, I can’t check your luggage in here. You’re supposed to be in the next hall. I’ll print your boarding passes anyway, then you’ll have to run to hand in your bags.”
Uh. What?!! We’ve just spent an HOUR standing in the wrong queue???? But this was the place to be for all flights with this airline…?? Wasn’t it?
Apparently not.. It was the place to be for all destinations apart from ours.
We ran past the queue for the queue we’d just been in, and launched ourselves at the nearest check-in desk in the other room. The not-quite-so-nice-lady-behind-the-counter looked at our flight coupon and said all flights with Airlines XYZ are next door, and pointed back to where we’d just been. We said we’d just come from there. It took a while for her to suggest we ask at the furthest desk (but at least in the same room). We dragged our bags up to the third desk of the morning, and the remarkably-unfriendly-lady-behind-the-counter told us she’d just closed check-in. We were too late to fly.
Arguing and pleading had no effect. There were notices up, and it wasn’t her fault if we ignored them. Our bad luck.
Or not, as the case may be.
Good luckily (;)), we had the boarding passes to prove we’d stood in the wrong queue. We’d been checked in. We were on the books (or at least registered in The System).
She sighed (and huffed and puffed), and turned her computer back on (better than blowing the house down). It was probably more hassle to log us out of the system than to print the stickers for our bags. That’s my assumption, so I could well be wrong, but she didn’t seem like someone who would change her mind just to do us a favour.
A few minutes later, our luggage went off on a private journey to wherever luggage goes, and we headed towards the hand luggage checks.
Just as we turned away from check-in, a man appeared, who was also supposed to be on our flight. Mrs Officious was not amused, and refused to let him fly. We were going to be late enough as it was and she wasn’t going to break the rules.
I didn’t have much time to feel sorry for him, since it was fast approaching boarding time, and we still had to go through hand luggage. And that meant queuing up. Again. Quelle surprise!
Over the last few days, there have been several terror warnings issued around Germany (and as far as I can make out, the rest of Europe), so the security checks were extra vigilant. The queue moved slowly forwards, while the clocks raced.
I nearly always get fumbled at airports. I don’t know why. I must have magnetic blood or something. I go through the gate and automatically go to the woman fumbler. On the rare occasions when I haven’t set the alarm off, I make my way back to the trays of belongings and try not to look too confused.
Today was no exception. I just got back from being fumbled, when DB was called into a miniature office to rescan his bag – too many electronics. The security man scanned each item as we unpacked the camera, and the tablet, and the tiny radio with pull out speakers, and the phone charger, and… “okay, that’s enough, we don’t need to see the rest”. We were dismissed.
It was 9:03. The plane was due to leave at 9:15. Boarding was officially started at 8:50. We were a little bit screwed.
However. There’s no point giving up before you have to, and they were unlikely to fly without us, if our luggage was on board. We headed towards our gate….
There are some days when things turn out ok, despite everything. This seems to be one of them, because there hadn’t been any steps available and boarding had been delayed. (Also maybe because DB’s Dad picked us up that much earlier than planned… ;))
The plane didn’t take off until 10. That’s 3/4 hour later than planned, giving us a chance to get our heart rates back to normal :).
Also, the man who tried to check-in after us would have had plenty of time to check in his luggage….