A Journey Across European Airports

In July, I went to Bukarest. It was a weekend trip, the kind of short escapes from home where my friend and I leave on Friday and come back on Sunday evening. This time, we both had Friday off which left us with the chance to take a plane from Berlin around lunch time and arrive in Bukarest at five, much earlier than we do on many other weekend trips.

Or so we thought.

We had a connection via Frankfurt and everything went well until then. We had some strong turbulences on our flight from Berlin but we were on time and found our gate in Frankfurt without problems. We made it there just in time to hear an employee announce that the plane was overbooked and that she was looking for two passengers willing to be re-booked on a connection via Vienna which would mean arriving in Bukarest at eight.

My friend and I exchanged a look and seconds later, we were walking towards the counter. I had barely been listening until she mentioned the 250€ per person that we would get as a recompensation. She took down our names, we had to wait for a while, then she gave us new boarding passes and the money she had promised. Eight was still a good time to arrive in Bukarest, early enough for us to maybe get some dinner and then go to sleep so we could start exploring the next day.

So far, so good. We sat down at our new gate with some of the free newspapers, waiting for the plane to Vienna and watching people line up, ready to board. They had been standing there for quite a while already when it occured to me that even though people like to queue in front of gates, they never get up that early. My friend looked at her mobile. “We’re late,” she said.

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And just as we noticed that we weren’t on time anymore, we heard an announcement about medical equipment on board of the plane that had to be uninstalled and that would take a while. It wasn’t until then that I started looking at the connection we were booked on. We had an hour in Viennna.

Our plane left more than one hour later.

There was a moment when we were up in the air when I looked at the time and realised that boarding for our plane to Bukarest must have started right now. I looked at the time again when our plane was scheduled to leave – and we were still up in the air.

A service center was easy enough to find in Vienna and we got re-booked again. Fortunately, there was another plane to Bukarest that day. There are worse things than being stuck in the Austrian capital for a night but we were planning on visiting Romania, not Vienna. Our new tickets said that we were supposed to arrive at ten, which was still acceptable but too late to go out for dinner. We asked for vouchers at the service center and they gave us one which allowed us to have dinner at the airport.

Having eaten and after a short stop at a bookstore where we browsed through guide books to places that looked interesting, we walked to our next gate – to find out that our flight, which was due to board any moment, wasn’t even announced yet. Weird. We backtraced our steps until we found one of those boards that show flights and gates and groaned.

We had a delay of almost three hours.

For the first time, we started doubting if we’d ever make it to Bukarest. If our plane from Frankfurt hadn’t been overbooked, we would have been there for a couple of hours already. Instead, we were stuck in Vienna and had to wait for another three hours. We went back to the service center, got another food voucher and spent that one on a glass of wine. I don’t take alcohol well and that one left me so drunk, I started doubting they would even let me board.

Maybe it wasn’t that bad we still had three hours to doze in a leather chair at the wine bar.

We did make it to Bukarest but it wasn’t Friday anymore. Instead, we arrived at one o’clock on Saturday morning. We filed a complaint with Lufthansa saying that according to our passenger rights, they owed us another 250€ for the delay they caused by not being on time on the Frankfurt-Vienna flight. So far, we are still waiting for a reply.

But if there’s one thing I have learned it’s that whenever a flight is too late, you can get food vouchers. And if the next flight is late, too, you can get another one. But make sure you’re not too sensitive to alcohol before ordering your glass of wine!

UPDATE: Lufthansa agreed with us on the passenger rights so at least, we get some recompensation for having spent hours and hours at airports. Lesson learned: If you’re late and you’re flying within Europe, you should always, always ask the airline for your passenger rights and contact them to get the money they owe you.

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