Monday, March 14, 2005

Where is the Campari? - A NorthWest Airlines Disaster 

Definition of air travel: Hurry up and Wait (Nomes Encyclopedia)

Back from the IETF in Minneapolis I needed two days to recover from the KLM/NWA disaster. Normally I am flying Star Alliance, which is basically Austrian, Lufthansa and United. This time for retrospectively stupid reasons I decided to fly KLM/NorthWest Airlines, e.g. I considered it nice to fly direct from Amsterdam to MSP, having only a short 1 hour stop-over in Amsterdam.

This was where the trouble started. The KLM flight from Vienna was already delayed because of late arrival of the incoming plane caused by bad weather in Amsterdam. The KLM plane must be used in summer for charter to Mallorca, because the spacing between the seats did not allowyou to sit straight. The advantage was only that the guy sitting in front of me could not lean back, my kneecaps where stronger. The flight-attendants announced already: All connections before 1400 are gone, all after 1400 are confirmed. Ok, is excactly 1400 before or after? Answer: check at the transfer counters. So we finally touched down in Amsterdam at 1325, but behold: the runway seemed to be on the other side of Holland, so we drove 20 minutes through the landscape, crossing some Autobahns, until we finally found the gate. It was already 1350 when we finally dicovered a display showing departure time 1350, gate closing. The transfer counters where so crowded that we could as well try to reach the gate. So another 3 km walk, passing security checks and passport control, always gate closing on display, we finally reached the gate, and: it was still open.

So we answered the usual questions such as if we always had our luggage under eyesight (Dave Barry once answered "No, not in the cab" and missed his plane) and finally entered the plane. Basically there would have been no need to hurry anyway, because the plane was sitting there for another 30 min before doors closed. Maybe KLM/NWA have some argument with the Amsterdam Duty-free shops (see later).

Entering the NWA plane was pure nostalgia of the 80ies. A DC-10 in original design with only one Video screen in front of cabin, no audio channels and packed 2-5-2 seating. It got really amusing when I ordered a Campari-Soda. When she brought the soda, I asked: And where is the Campari? She said: what? - Campari! - Cranberry? - No, Campari! - Cranberry-juice? - No Campari! - What is is this, a likker? - Good question, what IS a Campari? - I said, yes, some kind of red likker! - We do not have any red likker. - Ok, pleas bring me a Gin/Tonic!

Since there was no way to buy duty-free in Amsterdam, I looked int the on-board catalogue and asked for duty-free. - No duty-free on this flight. - And the catalogue? - That's standard on all flights. - Hmm.

Internet connection on board? - You are kidding

Needless to say that my lugagge was lost. Luckily I got it overnight, so I had it in the morning. Willi, also flying with KLM/NWA did not get it during the whole week, Hans after some two days. So from 4 colleagues I knnow flying KLM/NWA 3 lost the luggage, the 4th was clever enough to travel with hand-luggage only.

So after one week of recovery, back to Lindbergh to the check-in of NWA. NWA has converted all check-in counters to electronic check-in to save personnel. With the check-in counters the staff left is taking care of the luggage only, except two or three supervisers in case something goes wrong, and Murphy has an eye on this. Since 6 out of 10 electonic check-ins go wrong, they are completely exhausted and over-stressed, causing the check-in taking twice as long as normal. And if finally two idiots from oversea show up with paper-tickets, the whole system comes to a grinding halt.

At the gate it was made clear that the plane was over-booked (I wonder why so many idiots are still flying NWA). Why I got a seat immediately in the first-place, where as my two colleagues only got stand-by (report to gate), one of them checking-in one hour earlier, remains a mystery. On every gate within earshot they started selling vouchers ($750 if you have flexible travel-plans), but who wants a voucher from NWA? Since I will never fly NWA again, cash only. But we finally all made the plane.

The plane was of course late and drove again like mad across major parts of Holland, so we had the usual hurry-up across Amsterdam airport and the usual wait for half-an-hour un-docked, because Vienna had bad weather and they got no slot. Butwe finally made this trip, damaging my kneecaps again in KLM. Never ever NWA.

My experience was as mentined by Richard. However during a 3 hour stopover in Amsterdam on my flight back home to Munich, I found the luggage myself in KLMs warehose at Amsterdam Airport. With the leather tag holding my name still in place. :-(
Of course, they have sent it back home immediately ;-)

I'll think twice as well on taking my next ticket with KLM/NWA

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