Thursday, April 06, 2006
Travel and Daylight Savings Time
Boy have I been busy lately! This is also why I haven't blogged "much". After my trip to Little Rock, I went straight to Europe. Air France again, but it could have been worse. The flight was bad but not horrible, which is a lot better than I expect from Air France. So I was happy. In Europe I toured between Germany and Austria for various business reasons. I am not going to bore you with the details. The one thing that was kind of cool was that we had an event at a hotel called Krallerhof in Leogang, Austria. This is a fantastic hotel and all our event attendees were very pleased. Also, the fact that the weather was great and the skiing was awesome didn't hurt. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to do any of that myself :-(
In terms of excitement, things got considerably more interesting on my trip back (now almost 2 weeks ago). Europe changes to "summer time" (changing daylight savings time) on March 25th, which is exactly the day I traveled back to the US. Now the interesting part is that the US does not change that day. It must be a headache to deal with the time change anyway. There are just so many things affected. Anything from airline schedules to getting the cows used to be milked an hour earlier (apparently a real problem for farmers as I am told). And apparently the overall energy savings of switching time is only 0.28%! I guess it adds up, but still, compared to all the expenses this causes...
But anyway: Asides from the normal headaches, flights from the US to Europe must just be a complete headache to deal with.
Or not deal with apparently, because everything was in complete disarray. My flight out of Salzburg was late due to air traffic in Frankfurt (where I had a stopover). So late in fact, that I missed my connection to Atlanta (on Delta... from whom my ticket was purchased in the first place). This was clear from the point in time that I checked in in Salzburg. In fact, several other people on my flight missed their connection. Some of them were taken care of right away. They already knew what flight to get on in Frankfurt, even before we left Salzburg. Not so for my flight. In fact, as I got to Frankfurt, I was told to see a Lufthansa transfer agent. Why Lufthansa, I was not sure. After all, the flight to Frankfurt was Tyrolean and from there on it was Delta. Lufthansa was not directly involved as far as I can tell, but I guess Tyrolean has a partnership with them. It didn't matter much though, because first, the Lufthansa transfer desk was unattended, and when I finally found someone, they told me they didn't care because it wasn't their problem. They sent me off to another terminal via train to see a Delta agent. This made sense to me, because I bought my ticket from Delta, and I missed their flight. So off I went, slightly annoyed since I had already wasted close to an hour.
At Delta check-in, they told me that I needed to go to the ticket agent. OK... off to the next line. Quite a number of people were ahead of me actually. Most of them simply missed their flight because they forgot about the time change. Some of them were with the US Army and said "you do not understand... I am with the Army and can't be late like that". Looks like they were in trouble, because at that point, we had already missed the last US-bound Delta flight of the day. I started to get pretty annoyed at that point, because I really did not understand why I had to stand in line behind all those people who missed their flight due to their own fault. In any event, about an hour later I reached the front of the line. Turned out that the last flight they could have put me on (with a different airline) closed check-in two minutes earlier. The person in line just in front of me (who had overslept) still made it on. I didn't! Argh!
I was annoyed, but little did I know that my trouble just started! The problem was that delta really didn't care about my situation. Sure I missed the flight, but it wasn't their problem apparently, and besides, since I had only payed the "Internet rate" for my ticket, I didn't really qualify to be put on a new flight. What?!?!? First of all, I didn't even book over the Internet, and secondly, even if I did, I didn't pick any particular rate. Instead, I paid what I was asked to pay. I was mad at that point. Nevertheless, I got nowhere. Instead, I was sent back to the Lufthansa ticketing desk, since it was "their problem" for some reason. I was sceptical, since that was where I just came from an hour earlier.
So I went back to Lufthansa. As it turned out, at that point, the line there was over 2 hours long and wrapped around twice the entire check-in hall. Yikes! About 5 hours after getting to Frankfurt, I finally made it to the front of the line. There were no more flights that day I was told. Excuse me?!? How about the flight to Chicago at 3:30? "Oh that" they said. "Yes, we could put you on that one". Great. Lesson learned here: Make sure you check out the flight plan yourself, or better yet, try to get wireless Internet access, so you can pull up some flight information. You are likely to get better information than they do, and it gives you a lot of leverage. (In fact, online flight information is often more accurate about delay-status than in-airport displays!).
So a few hours later, I was on the last flight from Frankfurt to the US that day. Boy, what a hassle! I guess I should consider myself lucky, because if I wouldn't have had the right flight info ready, and if I would not have been willing to argue the point, I would have had to wait for the next day. And what really annoys me is that from my very early morning check-in in Salzburg, it was completely clear that I was going to miss my connection. They could have simply re-booked me on a later flight from Frankfurt to any other US destination and I would have been on my merry way a little later than planned, but without much further hassle. Instead, I had to go through a number of arguments and demand to talk to supervisors and generally refuse to go away, to make it to my destination at all.
My flight to Chicago was on American Airlines, btw. Not a very nice experience, but I should not complain, since it got me where I needed to go. I still could not help to notice that the plane was extremely old and shabby. The sort of plane where you are afraid to touch a wall because it looks so gross. While in flight I had the hopes of calling someone to let everyone know where I was and when I should be picked up at the airport. (Ellen was picking me up and had no idea I was late at that point). The plane had a phone in ever seat. I tried several of them before I asked a flight attendant for help. "Oh, those phones?", she said, "those have been disconnected 2 years ago". Great. I guess their vision of a modern world is a less connected one. Luckily I managed to call Ellen just after we landed in Chicago, minutes before she would have left for the airport. Overall, the American Airlines experience was bad. Even standard amenities, such as an in-flight map are apparently unknown to them. I know I shouldn't complain, and at least nobody was rude or incompetent. Nevertheless, I will not fly AA in the future if I can avoid it.
So this wasn't fun. At least not the kind of fun I need after going close to two weeks on 4 hours of sleep a day. But I finally made it back to Houston where I got a good night's sleep and a full day in the office, before I went on my next trip... but I will tell you about that in my next post...
Posted @ 10:16 PM by Egger, Markus (firstname.lastname@example.org)