Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Flying, continued

 I suppose I'd better finish my tale!

We made it to the hotel with all our baggage and family members, and tucked in for the night. I set my alarm for breakfast ahead of the 11 am checkout.

The kids slept in fairly late and we let them since there wouldn't be anywhere to put Sophia down for a nap preceding our 7 pm flight. I waited and waited and finally just went down to the lobby to get breakfast since we clearly weren't going to all be ready.

On the way up with the breakfast, I asked the concierge about the airport shuttle as far as the 11 am checkout. Well, the "last" shuttle was at 10 am. Until 4 pm. Huh. I couldn't quite wrap my head around that one...11 am checkout...shuttle until 10 am. It was too late for the shuttle, anyway. I headed back upstairs to finish packing.

We were downstairs and checking out by 11, and the hotel mistakenly put the charge on my debit card. Nope, DELTA will be covering that one! Luckily I caught it and got them to fix it. Meanwhile, they ordered a taxi for us.

From bits of conversation that I'd overhead, this hotel was a relatively new branch and they were still ironing out the kinks. We were certainly glad for accommodations.

We headed to the airport first (the cab driver was great) since we wouldn't be able to get far with all our suitcases. The terminal was a totally different scene this time. I first went and inquired about checking our luggage. There was no room where we could store them temporarily, but they could be dropped off up to 6 hours ahead of our flight.

Next I went to the machines and started checking in. I hadn't had a chance to try it at the hotel. As usual, I went through the whole procedure and got an error message. But in this case there was an actual agent standing there ready to help people who had questions. She took our passports and visas and checked them all and got us boarding passes. If there had been such an agent the day before, we could possibly have made our flight. Of course, it still took time and would have been more difficult at a busier time of day, but we were able to obtain information and results more easily.

We hung around until we could check our bags, and then we were free for a few hours. I had just connected with my second cousin, exactly my age, who lives in the area. She was still on summer break from teaching elementary school and cleared her schedule to hang out with us! After a little investigating, we found the public transportation pleasantly easy to use, and were meeting up with her at the aquarium in no time.

Of course, we were going on little sleep already and walked around a bit like zombies, lugging our carry-ons, and a toddler who wanted to be carried. But we had a nice time! And we didn't have to worry about traffic jams or checking in since we were done with that.

Back at the airport, we went through security and headed for our gate. Did we have the strength to make it through the next 12 hours?

Some of us got a nap...

I had to keep a vigil at the gate in order to inquire about changing our seat assignments. Since we had of course gotten onto the flight fairly late in the game, there weren't 3 seats to be found next to each other. On international flights, it's standard for them to keep families together. The agent was not sympathetic and said we were lucky to even get 2 seats out of 3 seats together-one adult could sit with one child and the other could sit separately with the baby. So simple, right? I imagined us passing Sophia back and forth (across 10 rows) for 6 hours...

She did find us 3 seats, so that cheered me up. We kept having little issues, and then they would get solved. And then I would think we were done. I was still a little nervous about physically getting through the flights...not even expecting any more delays.

Just a few minutes later, a delay was announced. Our pilot was stranded somewhere due to weather, so our plane sat on the runway, but could not be flown. And I did the math and there was no way we would make our connecting flight in Amsterdam, SIGH. And the next flight out from there (which I'd declined the day before) involved a 12 hour layover.

I went up to the agent and asked for advice, and she said "Get (fly) OUT of here (meaning Boston)! It's only going to get worse from here. Just get to Amsterdam and then go from there." Sort of made sense, but there was nothing they could do as far as rebooking our connecting flight. And considering the flights were filling up as time went by, having to wait wasn't that comforting.

2 hours later, our plane was finally taking off. I hardly remember the flight itself...Andrei had to rock Sophia for the first few hours, as she'd taken a snooze in the airport after all. But then everyone slept.

In Amsterdam, we went to the transfer station, knowing that our plane was gone (incidentally, there were others trying to rebook on connecting flights that were already full, having also been advised to "wait until" they got to Amsterdam). I immediately felt like I was in a different world-everyone was so caring and professional. The next flight was indeed at 9 pm, about 11 hours later, but we had actually been rebooked through Moscow, with a flight leaving shortly.

Going through Moscow meant a few more hours of flight time, PLUS another connection. I wasn't crazy about all those extra steps...BUT it meant being home by 9 pm, not after midnight. And actually doing something, not stuck in the airport. So we agreed.

I'd never been in the Moscow airport. When we landed, we only had an hour to make our connection, including passport control, baggage claim, and rechecking baggage. I didn't feel too worried knowing it wasn't our fault we'd been delayed, yet it was close enough that we had to keep our wits about us and keep up a good pace. After getting our baggage, we took several wrong turns trying to find our terminal and figure out our next steps. I assumed that we were basically checked in and simply needed to drop our bags off, as is done in a U.S. entry point such as Dulles Airport. But, no...we were not entered in the system and the flustered agent typed away, as the deadline for registration approached. In Russia it's possible to bend the rules, though...she took our bags, and we ran for security. We made it to the gate as our flight was boarding. We waited to go last, and then the ticket puncher also flew into a flurry of activity...YOU'RE the family with the lap baby! Apparently they needed to check something additionally there also, because of Sophia. These checkpoints were all so exhausting!

In the middle of the short flight, as drinks were passed out, David was reacting strongly to the smell of another passenger's coffee (he gets it from me)-while Andrei and Sophia were seated many rows ahead. I gave David some Goldfish crackers so that he would have another taste/scent to distract him.

We finally landed in St. Petersburg and as we proceeded down (up?) the aisle, David got that familiar cough...sure enough, his Goldfish snack came back up, onto the carpet. No one moved except for a few people nearby inspecting their shoes for damage. Have you ever noticed how flight attendants are very hesitant to handle anything involving vomit? Of course it makes sense, as they must protect their health, especially with handling food. But at the same time, they are in the service industry....At any rate, I did have wet wipes on hand, and another passenger offered some as well, as I scrubbed the carpet and wiped David's face. He did okay after that.

We were definitely relieved to get our bags and head home. Of course everyone had slept on the plane and woke up in the middle of the night...but that is another story.

3 a.m. jet-lag shenanigans

Now I'm torn. Do I give Delta/KLM another chance, or go back to another airline? KLM was amazing, Delta was a mess on those particular days. Do I go for a short layover again, or book a longer one in case of delays? And should I seek compensation from Delta? The KLM agent said we were entitled, and we didn't exactly get the seats we paid for...as in many circumstances, we're just glad to be done with airports for a little while and I'm already thinking about how to make it easier for the next time.


  1. Sounds a bit like our experience with WOW Air in 2016...and I've heard DELTA means "doesn't ever leave the airport". :)

    We've resolved that a 2 hour layover in huge airports isn't going to cut it with 2 little kids...so even though that might mean 4-5 hours total as a layover, at least we know we won't get stranded.

    Check out sites like FlightRight for compensation (though I think this is only for EU-owned , if you can't do it directly through Delta. In other words, totally seek compensation when possible. I guess that's the Dutch part of me talking - Dutch people are all about complaining (at this moment, I mean that in a good way), filing claims, giving feedback, etc.

    By the way, I like your new blog theme. MUCH easier to read than the black background. :)

    And seriously, if you ever are flying by the seat of your KLM/Delta pants again, and might possibly have a long layover at Schiphol, I/we can totally come help you! If there's enough time, you can even come to our house for a while (or maybe I can see if anyone I know in the area is around). If you're going to get stranded in the EU, the Netherlands is a good place to do it. :)

    1. I thought about contacting you, but unfortunately Andrei's Schengen (sp?) visa had expired, so I wasn't sure if he was allowed out of the airport. Otherwise it would have been amazing to take a little tour! Is the airport far from town? I'll have to ask you about it sometime. Maybe we could plan a long layover on purpose, although traveling is always exhausting. Thanks for the tips! I agree that 2 hours in a huge airport is not enough, such as Frankfurt or Charles de Gaulle. However, I find the Amsterdam connection pretty easy, you just might be in trouble if you have a delay.

  2. You are fortunate you didn't have a layover in Paris! That's where we were just about stranded forever! They didn't like the fact that we didn't have visas (in order to be in the Paris airport).... I've decided that French people have the market on unhelpfulness. (See; a few hours in that airport and I have a solid prejudice.) If you have never seen the movie "The Terminal" you really must. It is funny and - it resonates!

    1. I really dislike Charles de Gaulle, though I've never been stranded there. I always end up in the terminal with no restaurants (just little stands with sandwiches) and that annoys me. Last time we flew AirFrance it wasn't great and we had a short connection in Paris. But there's not much to do if you have a longer connection. Oh, and the visa thing you mentioned....never heard of that, not for Americans at least! Odd!


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