I am on my way back to Austria, sitting in this airport café and so many travel stories come to my mind. I decided to dedicate this week’s Monday Postcard to some airport tales. I actually started laughing to myself when I started writing the part about Abu Dhabi and got a couple of weird looks, but who cares. 😉
Abu Dhabi 2016
I am waiting to board my plane to Vienna and am sitting among a group of retired Viennese. The woman next to me starts talking about the local apparel (ie. the long, white linen gowns for men) and jumps to the conclusion: “Of course, they wear this here. I bet it’s really comfy, you don’t need any underwear and when you sweat you won’t get a rash!” I started cracking up – not only because of what she said but how she said it. For all the Austrians, that’s what she was saying: “Na kloa hom die die Gwandln au, is jo supa, brauchts ka Untergattn und kriagst a kan Wuif!”
Nanchang, China 2007
While we were waiting for boarding – for a flight which got cancelled a few hours later – we were sitting among thousands of people who just went back from their Chinese New Year break. As I mentioned in my Chinese New Year post, this is the biggest travel time in China. People travel across the country to get to see their families. My friend’s eyes suddenly got bigger and bigger. “She’s eating chicken…” and then she mumbled. “So what?”, I said, “She is eating chicken.”. “No, no, look!!!”, I looked over and right opposite of us there was this women holding a snack pack and enjoying her chicken FEET. You can get them in small stores in vacuum packages and they are a really popular snack. I had never seen that before and it was an indication of all the crazy stuff which was going to happen during the next few months in Beijing.
Manila, Philippines 2013
I decided to go on a diving trip in August – in the height of the typhoon season. I arrived from Shanghai and was supposed to transfer to my flight to Palawan one hour later. When I arrived at the gate, hundreds of people were sitting on the floor. I had never seen anything like that before. And for three hours, I was sitting there too. Then, I gave up and went outside to get a new ticket. It turned out that this was one of the worst typhoons to hit the region in quite some time. All the flights were cancelled, the city was flooded.
I was lucky to meet Huge. (Yes, that was his name. For a Filipino he really was; he was much taller than me.). He was a flight attendant for Philippine Airlines. When I tried to buy a ticket, he told me: wherever you go today, tell everyone you are my friend. Then they will help you. His friends guided me through underground hallways to another terminal. I arrived outside of the terminal and got a waiting number. It was a green piece of paper with the number 883 on it. I looked at the monitors – 725. OK, not too bad. But somehow, everybody around me had a white ticket. I asked an American lady next to me why her ticket was white. “It’s now white until they reach 1,000, then they will start with a new colour.” There was no way, I would wait and then probably not get a ticket. I went over to the counter and mentioned my friend Huge. “Huge has booked a ticket for me, you just need to confirm it.” And magically, it worked. I checked in and went through.
Unfortunately, this flight was cancelled as well. But thinking of the crowds and the pouring rain outside, I decided to stay in the boarding area. I made a new friend – Norbert, a German who lived in Hong Kong. He managed to get some information from a German steward that we should try to get tickets with foreign airlines. Because of the flooding in the city, the crews of the local airlines could not make it to the airport. I managed to somehow coordinate with my mum to book tickets with Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong (I tried every destination outside of the Philippines, half the region was shut down because of the storm).
Norbert and I camped on yet another terminal in front of the Cathay counter until the next morning. When we tried to check-in with the tickets booked online, the stewardess looked up and said: “I’m sorry, but you don’t have a ticket and we are fully booked until Friday (ie. four days later). “Get my on a plane, Economy, Business, First, I don’t care!”, I had managed to stay calm the whole time but 35 hours at Manila airport finally got to me. And suddenly, she said: “Oh, I see you have booked the tickets but the credit card did not go through because you need to confirm it by phone.” I gave her my card, she swiped it through and finally we had a ticket. Norbert and I had breakfast and until the plane took off towards Hong Kong, I was still nervous. But we made it – out with the last plane on that day.
What I learned from it: never, ever leave the boarding area once you are in there! And pull yourself together, crying only makes you tired. For some reason, I was so tense the whole time that I did not even manage to cry. Apart from my outburst at the poor Cathay stewardess, I was doing quite OK for the situation I was in.
Munich, Germany, 2012
I never get upgrades. Never! Ever! But on this flight to New York, I got my very first upgrade ever. The plane was overbooked and until the last minute, I did not even know if I would make it. The “excuse” of United was that I had not reserved a seat (ie. paid for a seat). Therefore, my ticket on that date did not mean that I would really fly that day. I think it was total BS and complained with the airline. But anyways, I made it onto the plane with my complimentary upgrade. When the stewardess indicated my seat, however, I thought there was a mixup. “I think this must be a mistake, I got an upgrade.” Yes, this is our Economy Premium class for this flight.” Well, thanks United. That “Economy Premium” was worse than most of the coach trips I had done before (maybe excluding China Eastern Airlines). The seats were tiny and the entertainment programme was eight channels with movies automatically running and you had to wait until the movie was finished to see it from the beginning. Let’s say it was an adventure 🙂