The post I thought about writing: how was this a disaster? Let me count the ways. It began with the simple fact that the owners and operators of Charlotte airport thought it would be a good idea to renovate the parking, but this meant demolishing completely the existing parking facilities, putting everyone in long-term parking, and busing them to and from the facility itself. This means long lines to get to the terminals, long lines to get to the parking, long lines to get from the parking to the buses—long lines everywhere. The next disaster took a while to strike. We checked in without problems; we got through security with no issues whatsoever; we found our gate quickly.
And then the problems started again.
There appeared to be a line, so we stood in it. Only to find it wasn’t the line to check in. Check in? Who needs to check in again at the gate? Everyone.
“Are you in line?”
Five minutes later, I ask again. “Are you in line to check in?”
Where is the line for checking in? There is none. There’s a mass of people, a gaggle of travelers, bunched up around the check-in desk, but there’s no line. And once we wade through this mass, we learn that the gentleman whom we were waiting to speak with now has to do the boarding procedures, thank you, and we’ll have to wait for that gentleman, over there. We finally get to the gentleman in question, who makes two pink marks on our boarding passes and hands them back to us, sending us to another mass of people were we’ll wait to board the plane.
Once on the plane, the next adventure: a poor child who is in complete panic, screaming, screaming, screaming endlessly. As a parent, I completely understand, and more than anything, I feel sympathy for the child and the parents. But that sound does grate, even when it’s your own child. And then the second child, in a different part of the plane. And then the third, in yet another. What I’m really expecting at this point is to hear and endure the complaints of the passengers around me, but thankfully, either they all think the same thing that’s running through my head, or they’re just keeping their comments to themselves. It’s a nice unexpected development nonetheless.
We’re about to pull away from the gate when the next adventure strikes: a fault in the electronics of the plane is indicating that a door is open when it clearly isn’t.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the captain begins. “We’ve got a little malfunction here that is going to require some time to fix. We’ll have to wait a few minutes as the maintenance crew performs some checks and diagnostics.” Fifteen minutes later, we receive the all-clear and begin taxiing out.
At which time the next adventure begins: the air conditioning ceases working. And in a plane of that size, it means instant heat, instant high humidity—instant everything unpleasant. A few minutes pass.
“Ladies and gentlemen, as you’ve probably noticed, we are experiencing some difficulties with the air conditioning. We’ll have to return to the gate to have the maintenance crew look at this new issue,” crackles the pilot over the PA system. The diagnostics are estimated to take half an hour; the fix ends up taking another hour or so. All told, by the time we are taxiing back to the runway, we’re two hours behind schedule.
The next challenge is only a mild inconvenience, but irritating nonetheless. The audio system for one of our seats doesn’t work, and so movies are out of the question one of us—there’s little doubt who that “one” is. And of course the airline-provided headphones won’t stay in L’s ears, so I give her the ones I brought and take hers. Which have terrible sound and are inaudible even at the highest volumes when I plug it into the iPod.
It’s easy to complain — too easy. There are other inconveniences, but there are blessings as well. The flight is without incident. L is able to curl up into her seat and fall asleep. The entertainment selections for L are suitable and enjoyable. I manage to get a touch of rest. Still, on the balance sheet, this airline comes out far behind Lufthansa. The moral: be more flexible with your dates and fly the airline you trust.
Now we sit in Frankfurt airport, waiting for our connecting flight. L plays Angry Birds on the Nexus and I sit wondering if I’ll be able to make the drive from Krakow to Jablonka or if we’ll end up staying at the brother’s-in-law place. The hardest part is behind us, I like to think; the most tiring anyway.
This post is part of the following threads: Trips to Polska, Polska 2013 – ongoing stories on this site. View the thread timelines for more context on this post.