Friday, July 22, 2022

Blane in Europe: Preflight Fiascos in Frankfurt Airport

We made it aboard yesterday to fly FRA-ORD-SEA, but certainly experienced a string of fiascos along the way.

We left the FRA Hilton Garden Inn about 5:15 am and bypassed with relief the long queue of passengers standing in line at the UA counter.

We arrived at Border Control to see a line had already formed. Signs state that it opened at 6:00 am...  except it didn't. A lone employee spent an obsessive amount of time cleaning a computer monitor behind the entry gates and various uniformed personnel (Zoll and Polizei) strolled past in various directions. Around 6:15 am, an American near us in line approached the one employee and asked him about the delay. The explanation was that they were waiting for the police to arrive. 

The lines finally opened at some point just after 6:30 am, but at first there were only one or two immigration employees in the booths. They finally added more employees and we got through, although the man we spoke to couldn't find the entrance stamp in Brian’s passport for some time. We did observe a group of young police officers hanging around, so we can confirm they arrived.

We then got to the security line. Our impression (probably inaccurate) is that they're actually confusing passengers with what needs to be removed from bags. We saw people commonly using at least three bins to display their bags and electronic gear. Meanwhile, the single body scanner that was open initially stood idle for 30 seconds or more at a time quite commonly. We got through that, despite Kathy’s having to endure an extra "pat down," probably "random."

By then, we didn't have a lot of time, but decided to make use of the Lufthansa Lounge. It's our own fault that we didn't notice the discreetly labeled Senator Lounge on our left (we haven't been there for a few years). We approached the LH Lounge employees standing just past that, and a woman looked at our BPs and directed us to the United Club closer to our gate. Years ago, we'd visited a rather poor UA Club, time was short, so we decided to go there, except there is no United Club. A United employee directed us back to the Senator Lounge, another 5-minute walk. We were admitted immediately, and we had time for our first cup of coffee for the day, and Blane for some hot chocolate and a pretzel. 

Brian approached an employee inside and explained politely what had just happened. He responded appropriately and said they would definitely inform the employees in question that there indeed is no United Club.

When we got to the gate, there was already quite a crowd. 

When it was our turn to go through the automated boarding gates, Blane’s BP wouldn't scan. We got our of line to go to the counter, and then it dawned on us that we'd tried to use his ORD-SEA paper BP - our bad!

We got back in line and Blane and Brian went through without a problem. This time, Kathy’s (correct) BP on her phone wouldn't scan, so she had to get back in line, while Blane and Brian waited out of the way just past the gates. Kathy can be spotted below standing well behind the employee wearing a vest and white shirt.

She of course had to wait in line nearly 10 minutes, and the employee never told her what the problem was, but the paper BP they printed worked and we all walked down the long flight of stairs to board the plane.

The United 787 Polaris Business Class is terrific. We all enjoyed it.

The breakfast and lunch were okay, but not outstanding. This is a Frittata.

Finally, we approached ORD over Lake Michigan and Brian spotted the Chicago skyline through the heavily tinted 787 windows.

The Chicago Immigration line took 45 minutes. We took the train from Terminal 5 to Terminal 1,  and made it through the TSA PreCheck promptly. They checked out Blane’s presents in both of his bags, the box of salt-mine salt and a couple of metal objects. Fortunately, salt is allowed.

Are we perhaps just a bit sleepy after our nine-hour flight and all that preceded it?

We walked through ORD's famous psychelic walkway. We never knew the neon display had been designed by a Canadian artist until we viewed this YouTube video.

We even had time to visit United’s spectacular Polaris Lounge for a few minutes.

Then it was onward to one final queue and our last flight, sadly in Economy.

We enjoyed a quick reunion with Blane’s mother, who had driven down to SEA in our car to pick us up. Kim drove us through the Seattle rush hour back to their house in Stanwood, where we said our goodbyes and drove home. 

It was pleasing to sleep well in our own bed last night, and to be drinking our own tasty coffee this morning. Another successful grandkid trip is  all wrapped up.

We hope to have “infected” Blane with the travel bug. We certainly enjoyed sharing a slice of travel with him.

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