I had all intentions of writing a "proper" trip report, jammed back with pictures and details but I was just too tired to take pictures or pay attention to details. In the end I was just happy to make it to Germany.
Its been 5 years since we've last visited my relatives in Germany. My mom's side of the family is from a small town in northern Germany, about an hour from Bremen. My grandmother just turned 80 years old and we felt it was the right time to make another visit to Germany. I was put in charge to find fares. The cheapest I found was an DL/AF combo going from BTV-JFK-CDG-BRE Dec 19 2009-Jan 2 2010. Not only was it the cheapest, it was on the Air France A380. My mom handed over her card and we booked 3 Y tickets: me, my mom and girlfriend were all officially going to Germany. My father wanted to join us but his boss bluntly told him "no". I guess thats life.
As the time was nearing I stumbled on a post here on A.net about the AF being grounded with issues. Aww! I was so looking forward to flying the A380. I wouldn't mind a 777 but it just wouldn't be the same. The day before news came of a huge snow storm hitting the northeast. The weather was lovely up to now, 40's with very little snow. I called the Delta Flight line to see if our flight would still be on for tomorrow. The computer generated voice came on "Delta flight 6430 from Burlington to New York Kennedy Operated by Comair using their equipment is...canceled". Ah great! I went into the kitchen and told my mom and girlfriend the news. I picked up the phone and called Delta. I was on hold for about two hours when I told my girlfriend to get out her cell and dial the same number to increase the odds. After half an hour agents picked up our calls..within seconds apart. I told my girlfriend to hang up the phone as I spoke to an agent. I made sure to tell her that we wouldn't mind driving to Montreal to catch a flight YUL-CDG or YUL-AMS, if that works for them. She said thanks for that info and put me on hold for about 20 minutes. She came back mentioning that she was on hold herself with her manager and was trying to get us on a flight leaving out of Montreal. At this point, I didn't mind. She came back on the phone and told me that she found a flight out of BTV to JFK leaving on Dec 24th...nothing sooner. I then put her on "hold" as I told my mom the bad news. That would cut our trip by 5 days and we would miss Xmas. Germany celebrates Xmas on the evening of the 24th. We decided to head out to BTV tomorrow morning to see if we could get better luck, and decided that a road trip to I relayed that info to the agent and thanked her for her time.
I couldn't sleep at all that night and ended up getting up around 4:30 to shower and to finish packing. Honestly, I didn't put much effort into packing thinking that it wouldn't we worth it, we more than likely would be home the same day anyway. We left the house at 7AM and arrived at the airport at 8AM. I met with Delta Agent, friendly young man who tried to help me. He looked up flights from BOS, EWR and a few others and went to get his manager to help out. She was very quick and happy to say it was the Weather's fault and they didn't not have to help us at all. I know that due to weather they don't have to accommodate us, but at least try to help, she made it clear she didn't have to do anything for us and that we should just shrug it off and go home. We decided that we would go to JFK to see if the Air France flight was still going. We decided that we'd rather drive 6 hrs, and have it cancel and drive 6 hrs back rather then not drive and find out that it did leave and be out a trip. She told us that more than likely the flight to Paris wouldn't go and that the whole airport would be shut down.
I hopped into the car and drove to JFK. The drive was uneventful and we only stopped once for breakfast in Ct. at a McDonald's. We only hit snow 10-15 minutes out from JFK, and it was light flurrys. We checked into our flight and told it was still going and was on time. I asked "is it the A380?" The check-in agent smiled and said "yes". Yay! Things were looking up. We went and grabbed dinner at Sabaros and said good-bye to my father. We told him to take it easy on the roads and to get a hotel if he gets tired. Security was pretty quick and we visited a few shops and made our way to the gate. Our stand was empty but I enjoyedI watched other aircraft leaving, Lufthansa A340 to Munich, Air France 777 to Paris and Aeroflot A330 to Moscow. Before we knew it our big bird docked at the gate. A few people (including myself) pressed our noses to the window to see this whale.
A few minutes before boarding, a delay was announced due to the late arrival of the aircraft. We would be boarding at 7pm, the scheduled departure time. All this time there was light flurrys in the New York area, nothing major and all the other heavies were leaving.
Here it was the moment of truth. We were walking down the jetway with my heart was pounding. I shifted my body and stood on my tippy toes to see above the line in front of me. I could just make out the cabin door. I don't know what I expected but when I entered the plane and turned the corner it looked like any other heavy aircraft I've flown. We took our seats in 42J,K,L and waited for push back...and waited..and waited... 40 minutes went by and we got a welcome and apology from the captain, saying that we were waiting to be deiced, which would take place in about 20 minutes and that the deicing process would take about 40 minutes. He asked for our patients tonight. 20 minutes went by and so did another and another.. It was around 10pm when we finally pushed back and got deiced.
There must have been an issue with the deice as it took forever.. during this time the cabin crew turned on the Entertainment system and I switched on the cams. I could watch us being deiced and there must've been some stubborn ice on the right wing. It wouldn't go away despite the different colors of deicing fluid being used. At almost midnight we finally started taxing, 5 hrs late. By this time my mom was sleeping (or had her eyes closed) and my gf was flipping through the channels on her PTV. It was weird to watch us taxi out via tail cam, as it seemed like we were the only ones left at the airport. The cam was pretty much all white with the snow whirling around and just a path plowed out for the center line. Who knows where we were going? I couldn't see any other aircraft and at 12:30, we were number one for take off. The powerful whale jolted into the white, snowy New York sky.
My family was getting pretty hungry at this point, as was I. Dinner was served and we all decided to go with chicken (the other option was pasta). My mom was accidently givenPasta and called the FA over? She mentioned that she also wanted the chicken and he rudly said "ok..did you touch it??? Did you touch it??" I'll be right back.." He came back and swapped out the dishes. The food was ok, although I've had better on British Airways and KLM. Chicken with mushroom gravy, a side of spinage and carrots. A very hard bagget, cheese, water and chocolate cookie/cake thing. We all had a Pepsi to drink.
At this point it was hard to see anything on the cam so my girlfriend and I decided to watch a Christmas Story. Air France A380 has uses the AVOD system and our quick fingers managed to keep the movie 2 seconds apart from my PTV to hers ("ok 1,2,3 press play!). It is my favorite xmas movie and she never had seen it before. After the movie, we got some rest and woke up for breakfast. I switched on the moving back and noticed we were at 36,000ft almost to Paris. Breakfast consisted of a yogurt, milk, and OJ and a fruit mix. It hit the spot.
Our decent was smooth but it was sad to see snow on the ground. I was hoping we would leave that behind. Touch down was around 1PM, some 5 hours late. The taxi was slow but we finally made it to our gate. It was surprising to see how messy people were as we left the aircraft. Newspapers, garbage, headsets, food, pillows etc all scattered all over the plane. What a shame this nice, new aircraft looked to be a mess.
We finally made it to Paris but knew we missed our flight on to Bremen (it was scheduled to leave at 12:10). I was able to spot a lady who told us that our flight was most likely canceled anyway due to ice in Germany but to go to the terminal (2G) instead. We walked at a steady pace to passport control where the passport agent told us that we need to get a new ticket and to stand in the information line. We turned around and stood behind 50 other people. On the board it showed that a handful of flights were canceled due to the weather. While in line, a man approached us, looked at our ticket and said that our plane was boarding! We sprinted out of line, ran back thru passport, this time a different guy greeted us, did not say that we needed a new ticket and stamped our passports. We can thru the terminal hopped on the bus to 2G and made it through security. I was asked if it was ok to search my bag (it seemed to be a random search) and he said everything was ok. My mom and GF insisted that i run to the gate to let them know they we were on the flight to Bremen. I did so, running as fast I could down the red carpet hall way down the stairs. The guy by the door took my ticket and passport and said "Bremen?" I said "Yes" as I caught my breath and said that two more were also coming. "No, Sorry!". I was in disbelief..made it this far, 5 hours delayed ran like I never ran before and could even see the aircraft with its MCD open. Just like in those movies, I'd see my own aircraft push back and head to Bremen. My mom and gf met me at the gate and handed their passports and ticket, with a sour look the guy scanned our tickets and pointed to our ERJ 135.
The flight to Bremen was uneventful but, to top it off, BRE was closed for 20 minutes and we had to circle. We arrived in BRE safely but none of our 5 bags did. We met up with the family and exchanged hugs and kisses and had a nice meal. The bags were delivered the next day.
I have traveled a lot and this is the first time such bad luck was on my side. The is the first time that our bags have been lost, that we've been delayed so much and had to run so fast to get a connecting flight.
This is also the first time I've flown as a revenue passenger, across the pond in the winter.
Air France was a good airline although the food wasn't the best. The F/A's tended to do their job but that was it. They did not go above and beyond and disappeared through most of the flight. I think the fact that we took off 5 hours late may have altered their mood. On the ERJ Flight with Regional, the Flight Attendant did an excellent job and seemed to enjoy it. Very professional.
I enjoyed the A380, very smooth and quiet. Did not feel like getting up and looking around the aircraft but it seemed to be like any other heavy I've flown on (747,777,767).