Friday, April 3, 2015

A different pair of wings: a flight diary

 It’s that time of the year, and I’m off back to Europe. It’s a glorious autumn day at Gerolstein and snow is forecast for Berlin, but who knows? I haven’t blogged so far this year, because its been a funny (peculiar) last few months: both Wendy and I had farm accidents, Wendy lost her Dad, the horses were pretty disappointing, and we came to a decision that we’ve ‘reached that time of life’ where we ought to stop pretending to be 25 year-olds (or in my case, a 60 year-old) and take things a bit more easily. Plan A has gone into action …

But, in the meanwhile, I’ve had a lovely Christmas holiday in Grafton and Yamba, to where I will soon return, we’ve had visits from both Berlinois Pauls, and Wendy and I became devotees of Masterchef, Australia! Laura, how did you manage to lose?

And now, it’s back to Berlin. And this year I’ve changed my airway. Not because Emirates gave me my ‘nightmare in the sky’ last year, but because Etihad offers some better options for me: no hair-raising change in Munich! ALL my boarding cards in my hand – Christchurch to Berlin – at check-in one, all I have to do is be trundled (or wobble) from one plane to the next. All the stress removed from travel.

So, stage one completed. Chaffeured by the lovely Jo to Christchurch airport, delightful check-in staff (Virgin), upstairs to the dreaded formalities, which weren’t dreadful at all, and on to the Air New Zealand international lounge where I am now esconced peacefully with bubbly water, ham and egg sarnies and wifi …   So far, totally happy and comfortable! Part 2 to follow.

Part 2. Yeah. Nice. Virgin hasn’t quite got Business Class into its Boeings, but the eight of us had nice big comfy seats and dedicated care from Eric, who was a real star, looked after us perfectly, and served us a really delicious chicken salad. And bubbly. And so, down into Melbourne. It was going to be a long pause … 6 hours (actually five, because flight one was an hour late) till the northwards flight … but at least, in comfort.

Wrong. Tragedy. Last year all over again. My trundler girl headed me to the lounge … sorry, we’re closing for the next two hours. Two hours, again, perched in a wheelchair in an seemingly empty airport … at least this time they didn’t throw me out. So I trundled myself round the vast halls, until I found a buxom lass cleaning a bar, and instead of sipping my complimentary champagne, I paid $7.50 for a glass of plonk. Micaela was a real honey, and she looked after me till her shift ended, when she trundled me downstairs to the nearly open lounge. Stress. Unhappy. Uncomfortable.

Part 3. Too many hours in a bigger Boeing, too much bubbly, too little food (too heavy! I wanted Eric’s nice, light salad), too little sleep … although the ‘beds’ were very comfy indeed … so, I got to the orange morning over the UAE in not the very best shape. Happily for me, Alex across the aisle turned out to be my good angel and he got me safely to land (via bus) and into my next chair. Abu Dhabi airport is monstrous, but the staff are grand: the mobility men trundled me for what seemed like miles, and the boys in the lounge fed and watered me and fussed over me, and at the last delivered me to my last flight. Which sat for an hour on the runway before heading for Berlin.

So, now I’m in the sky in my Air Berlin plane, feeling rather a fraud. The boys insisted on my being loaded on a lift! I told them I could perfectly well climb the gangway, if they would take my bag …
A combination of three different airlines, three different chairs-beds (Etihad’s was best), plenty of kind folk – Alex, Micaela, Eric, Jay, Edison – and when all’s said and done, what is my judgement in the Emirates vs Etihad stakes?

Well, it’s a close run thing. Etihad definitely wins on the check in. And no Munich. Emirates is a tad more luxurious. And doesn’t have a six hour changeover. But both left me stranded … I’ll think it over before I decide on next year.

In the meantime … two hours to go to destination. I’m about to have an arabic starter with campari and soda. And the sockets take NZ plugs (which Abu Dhabi didn’t). So I’m unwinding. But will I be glad when it’s all over!

Over and out. Tegel airport is as friendly and efficient as ever. Paul was waiting to taxi me to my friend Fifi’s lovely flat where I’ll be staying for a few weeks.

All decorated with my little homely things. Look, a peacock that doesn't sqwawk at 5am!

Coffee? Shower? Nice ideas. But instead I just fell into the big comfy bed and slept for eleven hours … yeah, so now its 3am. Oh, and it isn’t snowing in Berlin: it’s sunny!
Maybe I'm off on the right foot after all.

1 comment:

Will said...

Welcome back to a very sunny Europe! Regards, Will