Aeroflot? Never again!

I travel a lot. I do it for both personal and business reasons.  I travel by car, by train and, of course, by plane. The latter is especially important in my life, because sometimes I feel like George Clooney’s character from “Up in the Air” movie. I know differences between various frequent flyer programs, I have my favourite airlines and I have experienced both good and bad stuff there. However, I never before had any problems with my baggage. I guess, I was lucky, because I have heard various stories about it and, knowing math, statistics and probability theory, I was expecting that this would happen. I was mentally prepared.

Airplane

However when I was going to an airport this time, I wasn’t expecting that I won’t be able to fly at all. You probably can imagine my shock, when I was told that my plane would be leaving without me, because I was missing a visa.

I had a trip planned to Minsk(Belarus) with a transit in Moscow. Regular international transit. Leave the plane, follow the transit arrows and find the next gate. Or so I thought. Aeroflot, the largest Russian airline, thought completely differently. For some strange reason they treat the flights to Minsk as domestic flights and you need to change terminals. Switching terminals means passport control. Passport control means that you are required to have a Russian, not only Belarusian, visa. Go figure. It came completely without a warning. There was nothing on Aeroflot’s website at the time of the booking. I would expect a warning in big, bold, red letters to all travellers trying to book a flight to Minsk with a transit in Moscow, but such obvious solution wasn’t as obvious to Aeroflot. Russian customer service. It was to be expected. Anyway, no flight for me. They were kind enough to offer me rebooking, but I didn’t want to fly at any other date. I wanted to be in Minsk at this particular date, not the next month or next year. If I wanted a different date, I would have chosen it from the beginning.  Kinda obvious, isn’t it?

At least there was an option to get money back. Of course not all of them. Only a part. And I needed to buy tickets in a hurry from other airlines right at the airport. For a premium price, of course. What a rip off.Bad day at the airport

Good start, right? I thought so too. I thought at the time that I have had enough adventure on this particular trip. However I was wrong. Really, really wrong.

I got to Minsk without any further problems. I had a good time there. A beautiful and unique city. Good prices there as well. But I needed to get back. No direct flight, transfer in Frankfurt. Been there, done that. Should be OK. Yeah, right.

Lufthansa has never been known to me for smooth and effective work. This airline is known for constant strikes, bad food and good coverage of Europe. They have both advantages and disadvantages, but they are moderately good overall. Everything that they do,  they do slowly and thoughtfully. The German way. I should have known better than to expect to finish my transfer in one hour.

Yes, for some reason I was expecting that I would be able to switch planes in one hour. It shouldn’t be a problem, right? Frankfurt is a Lufthansa’s hub, therefore we should deplane via jet bridge. Passport control should be fast for a EU citizen and security check shouldn’t take too long. Right? Wrong!

First of all, we didn’t get a jet bridge. A bus. Time wasted. Pass control was fast, nothing wrong there, but security check… What happened to Frankfurt? Normally they are quite efficient in this particular area of expertise. Not that day though. They were testing some new machines. New scanners. And security line was moving only at a fraction of usual speed. When something goes wrong, everything goes wrong. Murphy’s law. I was late for my plane. Next one was due in 1.5 hours. Lots of running, a little bit of boldness, a few minutes of heated discussion with Lufthansa’s customer service and I am on a stand-by list. Yes, well, stand-by list, not a regular passenger list. Because all the tickets for the next plane had been completely sold out. I knew my luck too well by then and I wasn’t expecting to board that plane. Maybe next one. Or one after that. However miracles do happen. Someone, the person I am thankful to, didn’t make it. One place is free! Hurray! It wasn’t so bad, was it?

Stand-by ticket
Seat 0000 – stand-by list.

Well, as it turned out, it was. When I was boarding the plane, I was told that the baggage will arrive with me. I went to claim my baggage like usual, but 15 minutes later, staring at the empty baggage carousel together with 3 other “lucky” people, I realised that when shit happens, it happens. No way around it. I had seen it all now. I experienced everything that air travel could throw at me. Delayed flights, flight denial, missed flights… and now lost baggage. Is there a checklist? Of course, I didn’t despair. Somehow I got used to it. I was prepared by then to simply go and talk to “Lost baggage” customer service. Like I thought, my luggage was still stuck in Frankfurt. I got an overnight kit as a compensation and I was told to wait at home. They would deliver it as soon as possible. Great… No money compensation however. Ah, well, it was bad, but interesting experience overall and I have learned a lot from my misfortunes:

  1. Do not use Aeroflot. It’s better this way.
  2. Everything moves at slow pace at German airports. Be prepared and better have a bigger time reserve.
  3. Know your rights. It will help you in your interaction with airlines’ customer service.
  4. Stay optimistic. It’s too stressful otherwise.

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