Engineering Manager | Trail Runner | Stockholm, Sweden

There And Back Again

This last one was one of the more interesting trips I had.

It was doomed from the very start. The check-in lady insisted that 24.6kg is too much for my suitcase and I should remove some items to make it under 23. So I reorganised my luggage a bit, putting a few things in my backpack instead. The overall weight of the airplane didn’t change but at least the check-in staff was satisfied. Anyway, after this I was informed that she cannot give me a boarding pass for my Amsterdam – Osaka flight, but I shouldn’t worry, this sometimes happens and it will be fine. I’d just have to pick it up at a transfer desk in Schipol.

Then I couldn’t board on time. In Ferihegy two gates use the same jetway and our neighbouring gate’s Lufthansa flight was delayed and the plane took up the parking space. As a result we needed to be transported by bus to our aircraft which stayed on the runway. This caused some delay and afterwards there was some idling before taking off as well due to the clogged European airspace – or so the captain told us. This all added up to forty-five minutes of delay.

This made my situation in Schipol quite dire with not much time to get a boarding pass, get through passport control and board. At the transfer desk I was told that my flight to Osaka was overbooked and I should make my way to the gate and wait there. or I could just volunteer to stay in Amsterdam, which I didn’t.

The only problem was the mile-long lines at the passport check. Only half of the booths worked, and only one of them was for EU passports. And that didn’t matte much because non-EU people still queued up and they weren’t challenged either. Right in front of me were three Kazakhstanis.

When I arrived at the designated gate there were already two Dutch there waiting. KLM representatives assured us that they are very sorry but the flight was overbooked and we’d have to wait until everyone boarded to see if there were any spaces. As time passed the Dutch guy and girl were allowed to board. That left me and three Germans who arrived after me stranded. I caught a glimpse of my luggage being offloaded then the plane left.

Us unlucky ones were escorted to a nondescript door at a far corner of the airport which hid KLM’s offices. We received food vouchers for €15. When we got back from lunch tickets were waiting for us to Osaka with a transfer at Pudong Int’l Airport, Shanghai. Which didn’t sound too bad except for the almost eight hour wait there. To be honest I imagined my first visit to Mainland China a bit differently.

However as compensation we were given several things: a phone card for a five minute call anywhere in the world, another food voucher for €10, a discount ticket for any KLM flight for €50 and finally a cash card for €600. This was the point where I decided it wasn’t all that bad after all. The compensation almost amounted up to a whole return ticket home in winter. Also for the long-distance flight to Shanghai I was upgraded to Business Class once again.

I slept through almost the whole trip to China due to the awesome seat. Only if you have endured the confinements of cattle class for 10 hours can you properly appreciate proper legspace. Food was – once again – excellent, and this time I snatched one of those bibs with a buttonhole I liked so much. (I just found out it’s called a bib rather than a serviette, or so I think.)

In Shanghai the three Germans and I had to go through immigration, because our connecting flight was scheduled to leave from another terminal. We were even supposed to fill in a landing card, why though it was beyond me. Then we got a little red stamp and continued to pick up our luggage.

But the suitcases never came. Originally the KLM representative told us that we might need to pick up the luggage in Shanghai and check-in again with it but she wasn’t sure. In Shanghai however everyone agreed that we must do so. Chinese regulations don’t allow luggage to be automatically loaded to a connecting flight. We consulted the lost baggage desk and they sent us to Terminal 2 saying that it was OK and our case was an exception. In Terminal 2 the Air China staff insisted that we went back and looked for our bags because it’s impossible that they were transferred. In Terminal 1 the KLM people told us that the bags will be in Osaka. What they all agreed upon was that they had no idea actually where our luggage was. Also, mind that these terminals are a long walk from each other…

We finally gave up and crawled back to T2 to wait until we could check-in for Osaka. I tried one last time at the check-in desk to squeeze out some info about the bags, and that was where we first heard the option that the suitcases might be shipped the following day on the same KLM flight we missed.

However, to ease our discomfort we also received an invitation to the Business Class lounge in the transit area. Considering the five hours we still had to wait at that point, it was the least they could do. I was only afraid I’d get so used to this treatment that next time I fly as a pleb again it’ll be a shocking experience.

Random interesting information from Shanghai: a bottle of Pepsi costs 4 Yuan, they seem to use 220V mains, the public phones had the sickle and the hammer on their screens and the Business Class lounge has free food and beer, even wifi, for the tired travelers.

Finally our flight to Osaka was pretty much uneventful. The only thing worth mentioning that ANA planes all seem to have cameras outside which they switch on for takeoff and landing so the passengers can see what the pilots see. Landing to KIX is somewhat scary: the initial lights that mark the runway are on a small pier-like construction in the water and until the very last second it seems like the plane would just crash into the sea.

We landed fine of course. And – as service-orientated as Japan is – there was already a girl posted with our names at the jetway to inform us that our luggage will indeed arrive only the next day. Which turned out to be lucky, because unlike ever before this time my backpack was investigated by the customs officer. She was quite strict and businesslike too, even leafed through the pages the book I had. I still have no idea what made me suspicious. She asked if I left Schipol so she might have suspected that I’d try to smuggle drugs in. Or maybe passengers from China are per definition fishy.

The bad weather seems to follow me though. As I’m writing this it’s raining, as it had been more or less since I arrived. Au contraire, as soon as I left Hungary it’s all Indian summer there.

Flight of the Phoenix

The question I’ve been asked most is how my flight was. Well, I made it interesting for myself.

The bus to the airport leaves from Sannomiya, which is 3 stops from my apartment by train. When I arrived there on the morning of the flight I noticed that something wasn’t quite right. I was missing something important. And then it finally dawned on me that I left the laptop bag at home. Now I would have taken it as a loss and continued, had it been anything else but the MacBook. I don’t do well without mobile communications devices so I left the rest of my luggage with the bus loading and unloading crew and went back again.

This resulted in me being borderline late. But at the end this was also the reason why I got my fortunate upgrade as well, so as my father very kindly put it I have way more luck than brains.

The girl at the check-in looked a bit unskilled. There was a guy behind her watching over her every move, and sometimes when the girl seemed stuck he helped her out with some instructions. She didn’t challenge me for the little overweight I had, and finally told me that they have to upgrade me to Business Class because the Cattle Economy Class was full. I asked if I had to pay, because I wasn’t going to believe first that they’d just do it. But apparently they did.

So I watched smugly as a huge line of people formed at the gate, and then strolled lazily through the fast lane for Business Class. The best thing about the upgrade was that I didn’t have to spend ten plus hours confined in a space fit for a child. In Business Class it seems as if every other row of seats was taken out. The seats are also bigger, and everyone has their own armrests. The seats can also be folded into an almost horizontal position to serve as a bed. All this of course done through a control panel.

The other thing that’s different is – naturally – the service. The sheer numbers were in our favour, we had 3-4 flight attendants working for our 5 rows of 7 seats, half of which weren’t occupied. So there was nothing like the seemingly endless wait for food in Economy Class when the air’s already full with the smell of others’ already served lunches. Also one doesn’t simply get a plastic tray of food. At the same time when we received our sanitary napkins bright white tablecloths were also laid on the foldable tables. And the napkin ring holding the cutlery revealed a serviette, which – as I noticed later on – had a buttonhole to fasten it to the top button of one’s shirt. The trays were also covered by napkins, so it looked a lot more like a real meal in a restaurant than McDonald’s.

The food was nothing like I’ve ever eaten on a plane. It reminded me of those scenes in movies when the characters eat in some fancy restaurant. Everything was neatly ordered and tastefully arranged. We had a wide choice of wines, not just white or red. When there was a choice of different meals an attendant went around beforehand and asked everyone about their preferences, rather than doing it on the fly. 

This all might sound a bit over-enthusiastic, but I believe everybody likes being treated well. Also when you spend that much time in the air, even the small things that’d irritate you start to matter.

Of course when we were about to land I couldn’t wait to finally get out of the plane nevertheless.

In Amsterdam there’s now another checkpoint between Schengen and non-Schengen gates for passport check, and – to much of my annoyance – a metal detector gate and scanner. I hate emptying my pockets and taking off my belt, etc n+1 times.

I also learned from the information monitors that my connecting flight to Budapest was delayed by one and a half hours. That and my mounting headache did not help raising my spirits. There’re also no free wireless hotspots in Schipol, only paid internet access. I ended up buying 90 minutes anyway to inform my family that I’ll probably be very late. (I thought I forgot to pack my Hungarian mobile phone, which I later found on the bottom of my rucksack, after much self-chastising.)

The delay finally became more like a good two hours caused by the fact that just before we arrived there was a heavy storm at Schipol and almost all planes were delayed causing a domino effect affecting subsequent flights.

Eventually we boarded, took off and landed. I also got some painkillers on board, which I should have known better not to pack by now. After briefly pondering on the complete lack of customs and other personnel at Ferihegy I walked out to conclude this summer’s return trip.


Signing in from the airport. I was a bit late but now I’m ready to board. They told me the plane’s full so to my great surprise I got upgraded to Business Class! This is definitely going to be a first. :P

Update: the seat massages. I could get used to this. :)