Tuesday, July 09, 2013

MISSING FLIGHTS ...

In all my travels overseas, I got caught in unscheduled, extraordinarily long transits twice.
The first was in 2004, coming home from the US via London (you can read it HERE).
The second time was last week, going to Toulouse via Frankfurt.
Eight of us were travelling together to the French city, but we were split into two groups, one via Frankfurt while the other went via Amsterdam. We couldn’t travel together because both flights were fully booked. Another of our colleague flew out of Beijing into Toulouse.
The group via Frankfurt had an hour transit before taking the Lufthansa flight into Toulouse while those travelling via Amsterdam had three hours’ layover before boarding the KLM flight.
We, the Frankfurt group, were supposed to be the first group into Toulouse but we ended up being the last. The Amsterdam group got in first, followed by the solo traveller.
Even before we left KLIA for Frankfurt, I knew that we would not be able to catch the connecting flight out to Toulouse. I had told the organisers that an hour of transit was not enough; not at a European airport.
You see, we left KLIA on time. In fact, our departure time was four minutes apart from each other. Our colleagues travelling via Amsterdam left at 11.55 pm on Sunday night while our plane to Frankfurt departed KLIA at 11.59pm.
In the air after we reached a cruising attitude, the pilot announced that we may arrive at the German city slightly earlier than scheduled as an extra 10 minutes could be good for us.
But the unexpected happened.
We were prepared for landing. As I was at a window seat, I could clearly see the runway prior to touchdown. But the plane didn’t slow down. It accelerated upwards sharply.
“Nope, we’re not landing,” I told a colleague seated next to me.
A few minutes later, the pilot informed us that he had to abort landing (he termed it as a “mis-landing”) because there was an aircraft on the runway. I assumed that if we had landed, we would have crashed onto the aircraft if the distance separating the two aircraft were not far enough.
Once the plane had parked at the apron, the inflight supervisor asked the other passengers to give way to us to disembark from the plane first.
That’s where the Amazing Race started! We were met at the door by a Malaysia Airlines official who directed us to the train which would shuttle us from Terminal Two to Terminal One.
We exited as quickly as we could and ran from the arrival gate to the train terminal.
We then had to go through security and immigrations. As our flight was the first few arriving in the morning, we were lucky that we could get through the checks without having to queue for very long.
But still, when we reached the Lufthansa gate, we were told by the airline staff that they had closed the gate 10 minutes earlier.
So, what do we do next? We had just got off a 12.5 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur and will have nine hours to spare before the next available flight to Toulouse at 4.30pm.
It was 7.30am in Frankfurt when we arrived at the airport.
We could go out to the city but we decided against it as we didn’t want to go through the hassle of security and immigrations again. And we wouldn’t want to miss this connecting flight.
Frankfurt Main International Airport is a huge airport but we restricted ourselves to Terminal One.
First, we decided to have a long breakfast at one of the cafes at the terminal; long enough to enable us to recharge our mobile phones. The café we chose had on its menu so-called “halal” dishes which were actually dishes without any meat in it. We returned to the same restaurant for their pastries and tarts later.

The Menu

Toast Italia - Scrambled Eggs, Rocket Salad and grilled capsicums
The Pastries and Tarts - Baked Apple Tart, Cranberry Tart, Plum Tart and Orange and Cheesebake
From there, we checked out the duty-free shops. It is not exactly cheap at the airport. An iPad Mini 16G WiFi was priced at RM1,600 compared with RM999 in Malaysia. A “juice pack” (power bank for an iPhone 5) cost RM100 more than the one sold on board Malaysia Airlines. 
Duty Free Goods

But we like Frankfurt Main International Airport nevertheless.
We found several “gems” at the airport that transit passengers like us welcome very much.
There is a rest area at the airport where there is a free coffee and tea-making facility and where passengers can sit to read the newspapers (both in German and English), also provided for free, there. There are enough tables and chairs for passengers wanting to have their meals there (the nearby bakery does not provide sit-ins) and power points to charge their gadgets.
One of the many food kiosks at the airport






There is also a 30-min free WiFi throughout the terminal, where you have to log on by signing into the service using your email address. We logged on several times using several email addresses!
We also found a “leisure” area with more comfortable seats, where you can put up your tired legs up. The problem with this area is the likelihood of failing asleep while waiting for your flight, unless you put an alarm on.
As we wanted to freshen up before the flight, we found the shower facility at the terminal.
Looking for the Shower sign
For 6Euros/US$8, you can take a shower here, with towels and toiletries provided for users.
I know not many airports provide this. The only other time I had used such a facility before was at Dubai Airport, before flying out to the US.

So, next time you take a long-distance flight with a connection in between, it is best for a transit of three hours or more especially at European airports (if you travelling in Economy, the queue ahead of you for security and Immigration checks can be extremely long) and bring spare clothes in your hand luggage, just in case.
As we all know, the best laid out plans can go awry.

2 comments:

Oldstock said...

Yes, an hour of transit time is not enough. Even 2 hours is risky.

We were also on overseas travel last month. My journey consisted of 3 legs for each outward and inbound trip. JHB-KUL-DXB-AMM on 2 different airlines. We did not miss any flights but there was a close call on the return journey. On the inbound sector, the flight from DXB was supposed to land at KLIA on 14:55, while the local flight of KL-JB was to depart at 17:25, i.e. a transit time of 2.5 hours. Just nice I thought when I made the booking.

The flight from Dubai departed one hour late and that meant we had only 1.5 hours to switch planes. But it was taking ages for our luggage to appear on the carousel (it didn't help that we flew in the biggest Airbus there is, 400+ passengers) In the end we just managed to squeeze into the local flight just before they closed the gate. The lesson learnt : 3 hours transit time is the minimum.

sachin kashyap said...

There are lots cheap airlines that operate cheapest flight to CCU and offer cheap airfares for the trip.