Showing posts with label Airports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Airports. Show all posts

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Going home again

The kids and I spent three weeks in the US this year. Starting in MA, we spent time with mom (board games, card games, Cider Hills, and for me and Alex the first of five college tours!) then with dad (another college tour, with dad as tour guide, Duck Tours, and his annual BBQ). 

Zoltan as a volunteer for the magician who performed at dad's

We drove down to PA in time to meet Terry who had been driving from Calgary. Staying with his sister most of the time we hit the Turkey Hill Experience, laser tag (a surprising number of injuries!) another college tour, and time in and around the pool.  We even tested out our origami kayak in there.  And then again at a state park with an actual lake.  We visited folks in the Lehigh Valley and swung by the cabin on our way to the last two college tours - one being Penn State. Will Alex be blacklisted if I mention I was not too impressed with the Penn State Creamery ice cream?

Finally swinging south, we invaded my brother's house. Terry and I had some errands at Main State and I got to catch up with a few friends there, then more catching up with friends as we checked out the water park at Cameron Run. My nephew and his girlfriend also hit town that weekend so we got to have a big festive brunch before heading to the airport where we discovered there were issues with the kids being on my ArriveCAN (as in, one wasn't and one was only sort-of) which took nearly an hour to fix and we weren't allowed to check in until it was complete. Did I start panicking? Of course I did! Also of course, nobody ever asked to see the app once we were allowed to go, but every other step from the check in to the gate was super smooth so we still had plenty of time. 

Storms in our plane-change city made us nervous but I reminded myself that if storms delayed our landing, it would also delay planes departing. At touchdown our next flight still showed a departure in 20 minutes and we were 20 long gates away. I am out of shape. That it all I will say about that. The plane was in fact significantly delayed so we could have crab walked backwards - lesson learned. We once again had time to spare and then some.  Super smooth otherwise, and from landing in Calgary to being in the cab home was less than an hour. We did arrive after midnight, though, and I had work bright and early the next day! 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The upgrade

Dear Business Class,

You've changed in the years since we hung out together regularly.  Mostly, for the better. Back in the day I could sleep in any airplane seat, but these days I truly appreciate that fold-flat feature. Sorry none of us slept any more than usual (1-2 hours) even with your full sized, comfy pillow, full sized, warm blanket, and, again, the fold flat.  The extra attention from staff; real plates, glasses, and cutlery; and fruit (twice, once as a snack and once with breakfast!!) were a huge hit. I'm a little embarrassed to mention how baffled the remote control for the TV made me, but seriously, there was nothing to indicate that little square was a motion sensor in addition to being a "select" button. The noise-cancelling headphones gave me an actual shock when I unknowingly put them on and the roar of the engine immediately ceased. I've never tried noise-cancelling headphones before, and didn't understand the hype.

There were three of us to upgrade, so I was relatively confident it wouldn't come through, and thought to my self it was probably for the best; for all my life advantages I never flew business class until I was an adult and maybe this was just one step too far towards creating pampered, jaded children/future adults.  But they were properly excited and thrilled with each feature, and the trip was so much more comfortable, and we came off the plane like slightly tired human being rather than stinky, grumpy zombies. I am now thinking we may need to do more of this!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Thai customer service

When our flight from Astana arrived in Bangkok, there was a lady holding a sign with our names at the gate. She said there was some issue with some paperwork, and she escorted us to a Bangkok Air desk (getting us front-of-the-line service at a few points), waited while the paperwork was sorted out, and escorted us to our gate. We arrived with about 15 minutes to go until boarding and never would have made it without her.

 When we arrived at Koh Samui airport ready to fly home, there was a lady waiting for us outside at the curb of the airport. Turns out we had a very tight connection in Bangkok, so she was waiting just in case we came early enough to get us onto the earlier flight so we'd be sure to make the connection. The flight was full but they were saving 4 seats for us just in case. She ushered us at lightening speed through the check-in desk, security, and off to the flight which departed about 20 minutes after we got to the gate.  It turned out, given the amount of time we had in Bangkok, that if we had gotten on the planned flight we would have had about 20 minutes to get from one end of the airport to the other to catch our plane.  And you know what? With the last minute seating for 4 of us, they actually had us sitting 2 and 2. No 6 year old alone across the plane from his parents.

U.S. carrier airlines: You have a LOT to learn from the Thai carriers.

If only they flew more places we go!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Astana Airport

Image result for astana airport photosIt has been quite a week for us, Astana Airport. It all started when my flight from Istanbul touched down at 6am on Friday morning. You had no idea that you'd be seeing me again in fewer than 24 hours, as I brought my family over so they could go home (a.k.a. 'Murca. Which is something I never, ever call it.) And then again 12 hours later to pick up the delegation.

Sunday is a day of rest, as we all know. In our case Monday was as well. But Tuesday our 5am date happened as scheduled. And Wednesday. Ah, Wednesday, when I went to Almaty for the day.

One pick up, one drop off, one inbound, one outbound. We've watched the sunrise together a lot this week, dear Astana airport. I'm glad to know I have a whole week before I see you again!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Airports and airlines

It's been a while since we have flown a new airline or visited a new airport (Air Astana in-country travel excepted).  So let's talk about Austrian Airlines and Vienna airport.

Austrian Air: In our four legs, every flight attendant was helpful and friendly. On each plane Alex and Zoltan were offered a package of coloring, gummy bears, and various games. We now have for our travel stash a mini Connect-4, two packs of mini colored pencils, two decks of cards that are a matching game on the other side, and another card game that doubles as info sheets on about 40-50 different airplanes (photos, wingspan, maximum weight etc).  The food was as good as in-flight food gets.  And, the best of all - this being a bit of a slow travel season the planes were relatively empty. On our awful return flight home (depart 8pm, arrive 6am due to time zones and travel time) every family member got a full 3-seat row in which to stretch out and even Alex slept a couple of hours! It was our first landing-luggage-passport control experience without any exhaustion-inspired tantrums!

Vienna Airport: Family. Fun. Gate.  My only beef is that it is only available to those in the Schengen zone. I sincerely hope that the construction going on right next to the "family zone" in the non-Schengen area will one day be a complementary play area. It is essentially a soft-toy playground, with slides, obstacle course run over different levels, foam blocks, foam see-saw, and even a rock climbing wall.  Even the walls are entertaining, one is a "where's Waldo" type finding scene, one has the history of aviation or something like that. All over the airport are these seating pods, I don't know how to describe them but they are like couches joined to make a solid rectangle, all soft and padded and beautifully designed for resting or napping. In fact, during one of our turns in the play zone we saw a kid asleep on the thing while a sibling played. In other parts of the airports we saw adults sleeping on them. It was remarkably quick and easy to get around the airport, even with having to go through security and passport control moving between Schengen and non areas.  When I asked whether there was any milk in the pretzel (just in case, you know), the lady in the cafe consulted some code on the frame the pretzels hung from, then showed me a card with all the different allergens and their codes and it turns out pretzels only have wheat/gluten :-)

Friday, August 22, 2014

The cloud, then the rainbow

(the cloud) When I went to double check that the hotel in DC had confirmed a reservation with a taxi to the airport, the gentleman at the counter confirmed that no reservation had ever been made. Grrr. But he did what he could, and a taxi almost big enough showed up only 15 minutes later than our reservation time. With the help of bungee cord, the "almost" became "just enough."  No traffic meant we made it to Dulles with plenty of time.

(the rainbow) Pretty much everything that has happened after we got to the airport was wonderful.  The whole check-in online thing has really streamlined the time spent in line at the airport. The kid are big enough and motivated enough that they are quite helpful - they each pushed a 360 spinny suitcase and Terry and I were able to manage the rest of the luggage.  TSA Precheck was the most glorious perk of official travel I have experienced in a while. No need to remove ANYTHING from any bags ... except that I forgot a bottle of milk from Zoltan's breakfast and they did have to screen that, but it wasn't too much of a wait.

The flight was uneventful. As usual, the kids did not sleep ... well Zoltan did pass out on a makeshift bed on the floor under his and my seats but a tiny spot of turbulence meant we had to get him up and buckled and that was the end of that. The inflight entertainment options were plentiful and the kids never asked for the tablet. The kids' TV shows were largely shows they like and the movie options included Frozen AND Lego Movie AND Cars AND Cars 2. We could have stayed on that plane all day.  One glitch was that we didn't request kids' meals 24 hours in advance, but as we knew that we bought a sandwich in the airport before the flight and cobbled together snacks and the roll that always accompanies airline meals into a decent enough meal. The flight attendants very kindly asked if we needed anything more and did in the end bring us applesauce for each kid.

At the airport we quickly got our bags and equally quickly found the place to leave the bags overnight.  Off to the hotel!

This is where I rave about the Frankfurt Marriott hotel. The gave us early check in (9:00am - super early!) AND late checkout (3:00pm - kids can nap before the red-eye!) AND adjoining rooms. The month and more we spent living in hotels last summer did wonders for Terry's status with Marriott so we got executive floor access, including the club room. This means breakfast, a "happy hour" with enough food to fill our bellies, and water whenever we want it. Score!  We ended up eating lunch in the hotel restaurant too and although European prices are still heart-attack worthy, the food is at least delicious. I am still thinking of the tomato and buffalo mozzarella starter we had. The staff has been so amazingly helpful and gracious. When I asked if one dessert had milk in it, the employee I asked checked with the kitchen, came back to say sorry it does, and then told me that if we would still be guests of the hotel tomorrow night the chef would make something special for Alex.  They gave the kids sweets and again were sensitive of Alex, handing her bags of gummy bears along with the chocolate candy for Zoltan.  I can't say enough good things about this hotel and look forward to staying here again when we PCS.

And another shout out to my mom for her mad shopping skillz.  The Hungry Hungry Hippo travel game has already earned back whatever she paid for it, and Alex has already done half the templates included in her magnetic mosaics toy. We should have guessed that Zoltan would be absorbed with anything vehicles and not bothered packing anything else, but the tape road was a big hit in the hotel room.

One important lesson we learned is that when we let the kids pack themselves, we need to double check. I added a ton of extra clothes for Zoltan but we trusted Alex to follow directions and in the end she will be sharing socks with Zoltan and/or me until UAB arrives.  And we should have had her pack a bit more pants and a bit less shorts, that is our fault though. Thanks to the insight of one of my A-100 colleagues who suggested flying with a bag of the little detergent packs we are ready for laundry, which will be needed as we don't have a ton of clothes in general. The laundry packs already saved us in the hotel last week, as we got to fly with all clean clothes.

Also, the two travel nights' bedtime went like this:  We give hugs and kisses to the kids, then retreat to our hotel room while Alex reads a story to Zoltan in their hotel room.  It's pretty adorable.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Home sweet America

On Monday, Alex and I began our journey home. We took the rest stop but I have to admit, flight times sucked and I am not 100% sure it was better in the end. We had a couple of really crabby days and I am sure today will be as well.

I had the stroke of brilliance to think up a solution to the too many bags for too small muscles at Pulkovo and loaded our huge duffel bag onto the stroller and had Alex push that. I was able to manage the rest of the bags. British Airways started off on the wrong foot. First they somehow lost the 2 seats together I had reserved online, then essentially accused me of lying when I couldn't come up with which seats they were or any documentation of having done it. We ended up in the very last row, where each time the flight attendants had to get something out of a locker they banged my seat. There is also apparently a new thing (well, new from the last time I flew with extra bags, which was admittedly a long time ago) where you check your bags, they hold your ticket hostage and you have to go somewhere totally different to pay for the extra baggage. At Pulkovo, it meant going back out into the entrance area, then upstairs to the Finnair ticketing booth, where they processed the payment. Then back to the British Air counter where at least I didn't have to wait in line.

The flight was relatively uneventful. Alex managed to color and do her mosaics (thank you again Jenny for getting her the first pack!) and we didn't even use any electronics. At Heathrow I was reminded how much I like Europe and all their baggage carts. The down side is we flew into Terminal 5 and were flying out of Terminal 1. I found my way to the Heathrow Express and here's where the amazingness of strangers kicks in. One of the HE employees let my cart through the barrier then helped me load all our bags onto the train. At Terminal 1 he reappeared and help me unload, then he got one of his colleagues from Terminal 1 to get me another cart right at the trainside. From there it was easy to get to the left luggage place and drop off all the checked bags, then catch a taxi to our hotel.

We stayed at the Renaissance Heathrow. One side of the hotel faces the runway and you can watch planes touch down and take off. It was absolutely the highlight. The room was tiny and dingy, the plug in the bath didn't work and Alex is traumatized by showers and she was already overtired so getting her clean was a bit nightmarish. The mini fridge is also ridiculous, hard to explain but the gist is to put anything in it garners a charge so we just wasted the huge bowl of yogurt we'd had to order to give her the medicine. Club access is also a plus, we were able to get snacks and water and the breakfast there was impressive for being "continental". All in all we'd probably stay there again, if only because of the runway viewing.

The next day we were up too early, so we just went ahead and started the day. It turned out to be a good thing as there was a bunch of running around at Heathrow - like at Pulkovo we had to check our bags at one place and pay for the extra bag somewhere else. Also annoying is that they don't put up the gate info until 90 minutes before the flight departs, but boarding begins 60 minutes before AND some parts of the terminal are a 20 minute walk from the center area.

When I saw on the e-ticket that the flight was meant to take 8 hours I was surprised, because I've done London-USA enough times in my life i knew full well it's 5.5h to there, and 7h back. And, we left 30min late and arrived 30 min early. Talk about padding the time! At least I wasn't misremembering the duration. During the flight things were a bit rough - Alex tried to nap twice but just couldn't fall asleep even though the plane was empty so we took a 4-seat row and she stretched out over 3 seats and got a 3 blanket cave. Knowing I'd have to drive to Philly from Allentown I napped while she watched shows, I probably slept 10 minutes but rested/dozed through 2 full shows so maybe 45 min?

We ended up having plenty of time in Philly, largely due to arriving early. There's a children's play area, so I like them even better than I thought I did as I've been very annoyed at American airports for not having them. We got ice cream for dinner :-)  The Allentown flight was bumpy and Alex proved again that she will be riding the roller coasters with Terry as soon as we go somewhere that has them, by telling me she liked that feeling in her tummy when we went bump.

When we got to Allentown Terry's hatred of the credit card was good for me, as there was only 1 taxi already hanging out and he didn't take CC but I had enough cash. He also very kindly managed to get the Subaru trunk open, which apparently T's mom or step-father managed to do something to and nobody's been able to open it for a little while. We were at the house long enough to make and have Alex eat a PB and J, for me to grab a few things we'd need, unload some of the vodka and maple syrup (although I missed 3 bottles) and one suitcase we didn't need, and head back out. Thank you Randy for leaving me a full tank of gas!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Tallinn Airport

Since having children, most factors involved in travel have taken on a whole new rating scale. If it makes my life easier - super! Historical or esthetic value have taken a back seat to comfort, convenience and most of all: keeping the kids happy and quiet.

Tallinn airport, oh how I love thee!  You are so adorably small and yet in our collective 10 hours within your walls we had to turn on Dora for all of 45 minutes.

These are some of the reasons why: