Friday, June 27, 2014

Flying (halfway) Around the World

Departure day started out with good news - namely that the paperwork for importing our cats had come through. While printing it, the manager of our hotel noticed that it was from India and commented that that was his country! He was delighted when he learned we were going to Chennai, since he has family there. It’s interesting, everyone from India that I've spoken to about my posting has immediately said something to the effect of “you’re going to have a great time.” Of course, they've also invariably then said some variant of “It’s really hot there.”

Anyway, when booking our hotels we’d slightly miscalculated the time it would take me to go home to pick up the cats, so we ended up all going. This ended up not being a bad thing, because we had some last minute repacking to make sure all our bags were underweight (Psh, we had like 25 lbs. to spare!). I mowed the lawn for the last time in what I assume will be a long time, we packed up the cats, and started our 24+ hours of travel. 

Things kind of stopped going our way when we arrived at Dulles. We had tried to check in for our flight at the hotel, but the online system had tripped up due to our pets. The result was that my son was checked in… and my wife and I were not. It took about 6 people and 30 minutes for us to get checked in, and even then it was sans boarding passes. We’d have to pick up those at the gate. Of course, if this was the worst thing that happened to us, I’d say it was a great flight. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite that simple.

Our first flights tickets had us sitting separately. Technically, it had my 2 year old sitting by himself… but that didn't seem like a good idea. Fortunately, the singleton seat was an aisle, and we were able to trade a center aisle middle seat for it. The man came to take his seat, which my wife was in, and was perfectly happy to get a better seat (albeit further back in the plane) without the adjacent small child, go figure! The flight to Frankfurt was pretty easy, though our son didn't really sleep at all, which is unfortunate on a red eye. The cats seemed content enough, though I did put them on my lap (in the carrier) for a while to pet them.

Frankfurt is where things got interesting! We arrived at the gate to pick up our boarding passes (keep in mind, the tickets I’d gotten from Travel included seat numbers), where we were informed that the flight was overbooked and we’d have to wait until they could find people to bump to another flight. Hooray… We heard them offer to bump people on the intercom (to a flight that arrived at 8am instead of midnight and included a 600 Euro airline voucher, not bad!), but weren't called up to pick up our boarding passes until everyone else on the plane had boarded. Then they had to clear our cat paperwork, which took a bit of time. They’re very sensitive to not letting people bring animals that aren't pre-approved, because they (Lufthansa) have to foot the bill for the return flight if the animal is denied entry.

Anyway, the flight ended up having 20 no-shows, so the overbooking was moot. We were even ticketed 3 adjacent seats. The cats were a little more stressed out this flight. Side note on cats: while walking around (or sitting and waiting) at the airport, the cats would periodically make their plight of being in a carrier known to everyone within earshot. I had expected that to be a mild annoyance to people in the vicinity, but it actually appeared to have the opposite effect. We were regularly complimented on how pretty our cats are, and many people said they wish they could bring their (or just have a) cat. It was kind of funny walking around with the cats meowing, because people would look around a few times… then spot them and say something like, “I THOUGHT I heard a CAT!”

This post is getting really long, so I better wrap it up. The flight was fine even though the movie selection was much more limited than the previous one. Between the two flights, we both managed to watch “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” which is set in India and had been recommended to us. It was a cute movie and we both enjoyed it. One final parting thought: Why do they serve breakfast burritos near the end of the FRA-MAA flight, when it lands at midnight? 

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