Last week my family made our big move from DC to Kazakhstan. It was a move that has been on the books for over two years now, even before the Pamper Pirate was born. Due to the international health crisis, it was delayed four months. With my family in a holding pattern, we were all looking forward to the transition.
Our journey…was traumatic. I have only recounted what happened once and decided I didn’t want to talk about it more than I had to. Blogging about it and putting it to rest seems like the best option.
We were to take off last Monday from Dulles. We had two legs that were on two different airlines (United operated by Luftansa and Air Astana), albeit carrier partners. While our six checked bags were tagged with our final destination, we were not able to get the boarding passes for the second flight at check in.
The first flight went wonderfully, just until the last moments before landing. My husband, the pilot, commented to the Pamper Pirate about the landing gears moving upon the last few seconds of the descent. All of the sudden, we felt the plane accelerate and climb rather aggressively, as though we were taking off again.
The very opposite of wheels down.
The pilot explained that an aircraft waiting on the runway for take-off necessitated a go-around. The second attempt at landing was aborted in the same manner as the first, this time due to a potential issue with breaking; two planes had landed with breaking issues during our go-around. The conditions were not going to permit the A333-300 jet to break without running off the runway. The other two Frankfurt runways you ask? One was at capacity with parked Lufthansa jets, as much of the fleet is not in use due to COVID-19, and the second was being cleared of snow.
We, along with many other Frankfurt-bound flights, were diverted to Cologne, twenty minutes away. After about an hour of waiting, 45 minutes of refueling, and 45 minutes of getting directed onto a runway, we were up in the air and heading to our original destination, as the formerly snowy runway was cleared. I am glossing over this time because I was so stressed out about missing our connection. If I were to ever have a heart attack, it would have occurred while we were in Cologne, waiting for word to go.
We originally had a four hour layover. With the diversion, we landed with ten minutes before boarding started / twenty minutes before takeoff on our connecting flight. In this time, we had to take a bus off the tarmac as all of the aprons were full, pass through a security checkpoint, make it to our next gate, and get our boarding tickets. You are probably thinking, “So you miss your flight, just book a new one.” Not so simple and this is why I thought I was going to have that heart attack:
- Air Astana only flies from Frankfurt to Nur-Sultan, our final destination, once each on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We were on the Tuesday flight.
- We potentially could have been rebooked on the Wednesday flight pending capacity, but in order to pass into Kazakhstan, one has to have a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of entry. We took our tests Sunday morning eastern time; therefore our tests would only be valid through Wednesday morning. Frankfurt airport has two labs where one can get tested, but I was not looking forward to experiencing that test purgatory anxiety again, especially after being in close quarters with strangers on the plane and in the shuttle.
- Further complicating matters is that Germany requires a fourteen day quarantine period if you leave the airport. This means had we been rebooked for the Wednesday flight, we would have had to stay in the airport overnight.
- Neither of us have international phone plans, so we were unable to glean any flight or gate information about our Air Astana connection while we were in Cologne, in our plane waiting for the stairs, in the shuttle, etc.
We were the first ones off our flight and the first few off the shuttle. Once we found the gate information on the connections board and the security checkpoint, the Frankfurt version of TSA rushed us through. and even helped me unload and reload all of the two ounce bottles of formula back into the diaper bag. (There’s that German efficiency!) Once my husband had the BabyBjorn carrier back on, he took the Pamper Pirate and continued to repack the tech carry-on. I grabbed our clothing carry-ons, the diaper bag, our passports, and made a break for gate B47.
Even with all of the hill running and training I have been doing, I was winded. I even jumped on some airport employee’s luggage cart coraller and demanded to be taken to my gate and that I had cash for tip.
It didn’t work. But I will be forever remembered as that crazy American in B terminal.
Suffice to say that I barely made it to the gate and I still cannot believe that I did. I could hardly breathe, let alone get out the words, to ask for the boarding passes. The kind Air Astana staff assured me that we were going to make the plane as long as my husband arrived shortly. She printed out our passes and just as she was plugging in our Lufthansa luggage tracking, my husband came jogging up with the Pamper Pirate, our coats, and the tech carry-on in tow.
Once we were actually in our seats, I could not stop thinking that making the flight was nothing short of a miracle. This was my Home Alone Kate McCallister moment.
But wait! The nightmare does not end there. Our luggage did not make the flight which is a true testament to how close we cut it. On the upside, I packed all of the Pamper Pirate’s needs in the diaper bag and in our clothes carry-on. My husband ordered formula in advance that had already been delivered to our new home.
As we were waiting in the lost luggage line at 1 am, I asked the gentleman behind us who I noticed came running up to gate B47 in Frankfurt shortly after I did, if he was on a Lufthansa diverted flight. He had a near identical experience with a Cologne diversion, but his first flight originated in Kiev. That allowed me to relax in the slightest as it seemed like a Lufthansa trend.
Our luggage would not be dropped off until noon Thursday. I slept during the majority of that time.