So now that we’ve been in Germany for nine days, I’m ready to write about the long-ass flight we took from Houston, Texas to Frankfurt, Germany. Although my husband Bill and I lived in San Antonio, we flew out of Houston because we had our two dogs with us and we wanted a direct flight to Germany. A direct flight means fewer opportunities to lose baggage and live animals. If we had flown out of San Antonio, we would have had to change planes at least once.
We also chose to fly out of Houston because Houston has more international carriers than San Antonio does. Since we had our dogs, we couldn’t use Delta Airlines, which is usually our carrier of choice. Delta won’t fly pets from May until September or when the temperature anywhere along the route is higher than 85 degrees. In fact, all of the American carriers had restrictions. We could have flown on United, which is the airline we used last time we moved to Germany, but we would have had to use their Pet Safe program to move our dogs. It’s a cargo service and costs a whole lot… and frankly, I’m not sure it’s any safer or more convenient.
Having done my research, I determined that flying to Germany on Lufthansa was our best bet. Lufthansa has special areas for pets that are kept temperate and well lit and they take care not to put animals on the plane until the last minute. The Frankfurt airport also has a pet facility that was built in 2011 that is supposedly pretty awesome. I didn’t expect we’d need to use the pet facility, since we were going to be on the same flight with our dogs.
Aside from taking care of our dogs, I was kind of excited about flying on a European carrier on a transatlantic flight. It’s been my experience that European airlines are better than American airlines are in terms of comfort. Since we had to pay for our tickets (which means we have to reimburse Bill’s employer), we were able to book directly with Lufthansa. Had we been flying on military or government orders, it’s very likely we would have been forced to fly on an American carrier. I don’t know if this is still the rule– it was when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and last time we moved to Germany– but if you fly on the government’s dime, they make you take an American carrier for as far as possible.
Anyway, we had a really decent flight on Lufthansa. The only thing I didn’t like about it was having to pay $35 each for two seats together. We could have let fate determine where we’d be sitting, but Bill and I wanted to make sure we were together. So we spent $70 so I could sit by a window and Bill could sit in a middle seat.
The guy who checked us in at Lufthansa had never dealt with pets before, so a co-worker came over and trained him as he got our dogs set up. Then he walked us to the oversized baggage counter so the dogs could be checked by TSA. Let me just say right here that the two TSA guys at the Houston airport were great with Zane and Arran. I wish all TSA encounters were as pleasant. Zane and Arran each weigh about 25 pounds and in their carriers, they weren’t too much heavier. So though we were originally quoted $800 when we asked about how much it would be to fly with them, we ended up paying only $400.
The boys wait patiently in the airport…
Loaded up and ready to fly.
The Lufthansa flight itself was very pleasant. Our flight attendant was terminally sweet and chipper and was happy to check for us that the dogs were checked in safely. She brought us a before dinner drink and the wine flowed freely throughout dinner. The dinner was some kind of chicken with vegetables and mashed potatoes. It wasn’t great food, but it was edible. The wine helped.
The seat was reasonably comfortable and there was a monitor on the seat in front of us which allowed us to watch movies or listen to music. I used my iPod and watched the progress of the flight; Lufthansa had kind of a cool Google Earth feature that showed a simulation of what was under the plane. I liked seeing the names of places as we flew, too… especially as we got closer to Germany.
The carry on baggage bin above us was full of crew equipment, so we ended up having to stick our bags under the seats in front of us. My bag was sort of full, so I ended up with less leg room. Good thing I have short legs.
I didn’t try the breakfast. I think it was some kind of omelet. The thought of eating a pre-made omelet was too weird for me, so I passed. Bill tasted his and said it was okay. I ate the bread and fruit instead.
The guy who sat on the aisle with us was upset because his monitor quit working. He summoned a flight attendant who did all she could, short of moving him to business class, to make him happy. He ended up staying in his seat and the monitor eventually worked again. I was impressed by how kind and efficient the flight staff was. It really was a nice flight– especially since the guy in front of me didn’t recline.
The dude in the aisle seat wasn’t as lucky and got stuck with some American jerk’s head in his lap for most of the flight (he actually had to be told to sit upright for the meal service). As we were sitting in the last row before the exit, we didn’t have anyone sitting right behind us, so for once I felt alright about reclining and also didn’t have anyone’s knees in my back.
The dogs were in great shape when we picked them up. They weren’t real happy to be in the carriers and they were thirsty, but otherwise they came through the flight just fine. It sure beat paying thousands for them to fly cargo or using a pet shipping service.
We need to go back to the United States in November, so I look forward to using the other half of that round trip ticket. I don’t like long haul flights, but on a European carrier, they are somewhat more bearable.