All of us who travel have war stories, particularly those involving planes. Here is another.
Joelle and Phillipe took us to Selestat train station and we said good bye. The credit card with the chip and signature worked perfectly and soon we had two train tickets to Saint-Louis. The train arrived on time and whizzed us down to the station near the airport. Marianne managed to spot the new location of the bus #11 that took us to the airport where eventually we boarded a Lufthansa plane that arrived on time at Frankfurt airport at area A of Terminal 1.
This airport is a monster place and if you stay in the terminal 1 areas A or B, it seems to work fine. Our Condor plane left from C4. I think it is enough to say that they appear to be demolishing area C. Poor Marianne did not appreciate all the walking and having to go through security again.
When we got to the gate I saw that we were to take the OAI plane that had brought us over from BWI. The boarding time came and went and we noticed a large group of Policemen getting off the plane. There was an announcement of a delay and two people were asked to report to the desk. Eventually we were loaded onto the plane about 45 minutes late and then we just sat and sat. Then the attendants came round with a stack of pages that look like they were photocopies and gave one to each passenger. Taking the paper was compulsory. English on one side, German on the other, the paper showed the instructions for passengers sitting in the emergency seat exits! I looked at the regular emergency instructions that are in every seat pocket and they were only in English. Eventually the plane took off 90 minutes late. Marianne and I were in the center section.
The flight across the Atlantic went fine but when the speed was only a bit over 400 knots so it seemed to take forever. I find the seats on this plane much too small. The food and drinks were ok and the attendants were courteous and helpful. One of them even talked to the mother of a rambunctious small boy who was babbling away loudly to tell her to get him to shut up. We expected to arrive at BWI about 2 hours late.
As we approached BWI airport we could see that a storm was approaching. I hoped we could get in before they closed the airport and we almost made it. We were over the airport fence and almost touching down when the pilot suddenly applied full power and took us up again. I suspect their wind-shear alarm went off because in the subsequent announcement they mentioned the poor weather and the possibility of wind-shear.
If you live in the western areas of Washington, the word Dulles denotes your airport. For everybody else in the area, the word Dulles denotes an airport out in the middle of nowhere that is a pain to get to and from. The pilot announced that we would be diverting to Dulles and a huge groan from the passengers emerged. The plane landed soon after and we parked well away from the terminals.
Obviously, the next question was how were they going to get a planeload of passengers to BWI. Some of the passengers would have been happy to get off at Dulles but most needed to get to BWI. Cell phones appeared and you could hear people making alternate arrangements. After an hour or so, Condor decided to refuel the plane and fly it to BWI. We sat on the plane as this was done but it all took another hour or so. Refueling a plane is potentially dangerous so we all had to sit in our seats and stairs were brought in to the doors of the plane in case we had to get off quickly.
Eventually we were ready to go but they couldn't get the engines started! After another hour they got them going and we took off and did a tour of northern Maryland where I finally managed to doze a little. In other countries there would have been applause when we finally touched down but I think we were all too drained to work up that kind of enthusiasm. Immigration at Baltimore does not have the passport reader technology so we all lined up. Fortunately our luggage appeared and soon we were on the bus to the long-term parking. We found the car and headed home arriving after 2 am. Our journey time was over 24 hours and we went to bed straight away.
When you think about it, we were lucky. The story could have ended differently at BWI and the pilot had the skill to perform what has to be a scary maneuver. For the most part, the pilot and attendants were diligent about keeping us updated and they came round with water etc.
Marianne said that she heard from another passenger that the initial delay was caused by some dogs that were being transported on the plane. We will never know what that was all about.
So, a crappy trip across the pond, but we made it home and that is the main thing. In certain ways the main problem was the combination of the delay and the 6 hour time difference. It made for a very long day.