Frankfurt - Airport from Hell

Thursday, May 29, 2008

If Hell had an airport, I think it would be designed exactly like the one in Frankfurt Germany.

The flights start out well enough in Tulsa.  I get to the airport early, just in case there's a problem.  Always better to be safe than sorry, especially on the way TO your vacation.  The way FROM isn't quite as important... at least in my opinion.

My first flight is from Tulsa to Cincinnati.  The side of the plane I was on had rows of two seats, and there was no other person in my row, so I had both seats to myself.  I love it when this happens, and took full advantage of it.  Spreading out, putting my trash on the OTHER seat's pull down tray... very nice.  As we approached the airport, they announced to which gate we would be landing.  I looked at the little map in the back of the Delta magazine, and figured out I would have to switch terminals.  I hate switching terminals, but at least I knew what I had to do.

Switching terminals in Cincinnati is a breeze.  In about 5 minutes after getting off my first flight I was in the international terminal looking for my gate.  Since my layover was only about an hour, and we arrived a bit late, I got to my gate as they had started boarding the plane.  My ticket said I was in Zone 9.  "9?!?!", I thought.... I didn't know they went that high!  About a half hour later, I got to get on the plane.  Trying to find a place to put my carry on in the over head compartment wasn't easy as most of the spaces were full.  Thank goodness for my small piece, it shoved in nicely in one tiny bin.

I helped this elderly lady put her rather large carry on in another overhead bin, as she really couldn't lift it.  Plus we had to rearrange things a bit so her's would fit. 

Note: I have noticed that women's purses (as their "personal bag") get rather large when they fly.  Some are as big as suitcases.....

Turns out that this elderly lady was to share the other seat in the row with me.  I don't remember her name, but she is originally from Croatia, now a Canadian citizen but teaching university in Idaho.  She was on her way to Croatia to visit family.  Apparently she travels a lot, as she seems to have seen much of the world.  Telling me stories about her past flights, she was flying when 9/11 happened, and got stuck in Salt Lake City.  Someone once died on one of her flights, and engine caught fire on another, someone was caught with a bomb on yet another, and even stranded at an airport in a blizzard.  I started thinking that perhaps it wasn't safe being on a plane with her... but too late now.

The flight was nice, good conversation for a while, read some of my book, listened to music, and such.  Time flew quickly, and we soon landed in Germany.  I helped the Croatian lady get her luggage, and we walked off the plane.  Since she and I were both connecting to foreign places, we stopped and asked this lady where we should be going.  She told us we need to change terminals (oh no!) and go to Terminal 1, as we were now in Terminal 2.  The Croatian lady sorta sighed and the German lady, in what seemed like typical German style said in English "oh...its not so bad!"

Great...so we started walking to the tram to take us to Terminal 1.  And walked..and walked....walked some more....walked even more.  We went up stairs, down starts, in an elevator.  Now keep in mind that I have 1.5 hours to get to my next flight. 

Imagine the elevator scene in the Blues Brothers movie.  Under a immanent deadline, the entire Chicago police force chasing them, and there Jake and Elwood stand calmly and peacefully in an elevator with a easy listening styled "Girl from Iponiwa" playing in the background.  That was how I kinda felt...once in the elevator, there isn't much you can do to speed things up.  Got out of the elevator, walked more...and more..through construction...around construction.  Finally!!  The tram!

Got on the tram, and rode...and rode...I was beginning to think I was taking the tram to Romania it seemed so long, but finally it stopped and in English announced we had arrived at Terminal 1.  Then we walked some more...and more...and more, until we arrived at a security gate.

The signs at the gate had two arrows, one for First and Business Class passengers, and the other for Economy.  "Well....okay" I thought and both I and the elderly lady followed the line for Economy.  Both lines ended up in the same place. Okay...really that made no sense, but what was I to say? 

The line is moving slowly...very very slowly.  They only have one security gate open, and the number of people are stacking up in line.  Though no one seems in a hurry to open a second line.  You have to go through a doorway of sorts to get to the metal detector, so perhaps they couldn't see the line.  Still, they were having to check people with hand wands and such, and were opening a lot of bags. 

I watched, and saw what needed to be done.  I pulled out my laptop, took everything out of my pockets, and also removed my belt.  The only other metal thing I knew of was the zipper and button on my jeans, but you just gotta draw the line somewhere.  Minutes passes..and more minutes.... I kept looking at my watch...my time was getting shorter and shorter.  Finally, my turn at bat.  I put my stuff in the little tubs, put my bags on the belt and walk through.

*BEEP* 

"Oh crap," I thought.  They pull me over...and frisk me.  Not the "pat pat pat" and your done type frisk, but the "he really should have bought me dinner first" type of frisking.  At least they could have let the cute girl frisk me.... Not fun at all.  I passed inspection, I guess, and went over to claim my bags.  But, they saw something that need further investigating. 

Wonderful.  They open one of my bags, and after a bit of searching, it turns out that my luggage scale (used to measure the weight of luggage so I stay under the 50 lb limit) looks like something entirely different under x-ray.  They figured it out, and one actually apologized for the search.  I smiled and told him it wasn't a problem, repacked my stuff, told my good-byes to the Croatian lady and wished her safe journeys.  I would have waited for her, but I was late!  She understood.

So I walked...and walked and walked some more.  I should have been in another city by now, much less out of the airport, but I continued.  Finally, I saw an arrow pointing me down a hallway with my gate number.  It looked like I would be at the very end, so I was almost running at this point.  I saw another arrow, pointing me down another turn.  Only 3 gates in that direction...I was almost there!  I flew down a flight of stairs, turned a corner, and guess what I saw.

Oh....did I mention there was no air conditioning in the airport.  And it was hot, and I was sweating, and I was starting to get into a bad mood when right before me appeared.....

A security checkpoint.

"You have got to be kidding!!!" I thought.  Actually, I can't really type what I thought.  Let's just say I wasn't very happy.  I could see my gate right past the point, so I get in line, take off my belt, empty my pockets, remove my laptop and put everything on the conveyor belt.  The lady even remarked "Wow, you've done this before."  I said "Yes, about 20 minutes ago" and asked if I had to do it back there, why am I having to do this again?  Not sure I understood what she said, other than the airport is old and isn't designed well for newer security standards.  I nodded as if I understood while thinking "gee...really?"  Still, no sense in arguing.  I walked through the metal detector.

*BEEP*

Like I didn't see that coming...

They didn't have to even ask, I just walked over.  I knew what had to be done, and even though I wouldn't like it, it happened.  Yep..again with the frisking.  This really wasn't my day.  And this time they search my other bag.  I don't know what for, didn't care, just showed them what was in it and they seemed happy.  Ran to my gate to get my boarding pass.  No one was manning the desk.  Most people were gone, being loaded onto a bus.  I wanted my boarding pass, so I waived at this one lady.  She politely but curtly told me to wait as she was busy.  Fine...

Got my pass and ran to the bus.  Not sure why this is, but many of the smaller flights at European airports do not park at the gate.  They park .... well, away...and the shuttle the passengers to the plane.  I've done this before, so it wasn't a surprise.  Got on the bus, and we waited...and waited...and waited some more.  It was hot, I was sweating, and I assume others were too.  It wasn't comfortable at all... but finally we start to move. 

We keep going and going and going and going.  I don't know, but I don't think Romania gets much respect in Europe.  Not sure why, though I think Western Europe views Romania like the US views Mexico.  We must have traveled to a new time zone, but the plane furthest from the airport was our plane.  The bus stops...and the doors don't open.

Again with the waiting in the hot crowded bus with no moving air. I felt like I might start hyperventilating I was getting claustrophobic.  For about 10 minutes we stood there, sweating and standing, waiting and wondering.  Then, magically, the doors opened and we got on the plane. 

Thus my escape from Hell..er...Frankfurt Airport.



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