advice, airlines, dog rescue, dogs, pets, rants

A rant about the CDC’s new rule about importing pets…

If you are a regular reader of my blogs, you know that I have two adorable furry family members. At this writing, our dogs are Arran and Noyzi. Prior to our acquisition of Noyzi, we had another dog named Zane, who sadly died of lymphoma on August 31, 2019. The featured photo today is of Zane and Arran on August 2, 2014, when we flew from Houston, Texas to Frankfurt, Germany on a Lufthansa flight.

Bill and I have always had dogs. Next month, we will celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. Our dogs have been our family members, because we were not able to have children. Although I don’t require an emotional support animal, I do rely on my dogs to keep my company when Bill travels. Prior to the pandemic and, more specifically, the new CDC restriction on bringing animals into the United States, it was a pain in the butt to move abroad with pets. Now, it’s become a real hassle for people who have to return home from living overseas. I fear that this new rule may cause a lot of pets to be abandoned. Here in Germany, that is bad news, since Americans already have a terrible reputation for abandoning their pets when it’s time to move. It really sucks for those of us who are dedicated pet owners.

This morning, The New York Times ran an article about the new rule and how it affects people who travel with their pets, or Americans who live abroad. I am a subscriber to The New York Times and have gifted this article, so you should be able to click the link and read it for free. I am a member of a Facebook group for people who are “PCSing” with pets, and there’s been a lot of worry about how to get dogs and cats safely to places abroad. Many of the people traveling with pets are young folks who don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on hiring pet shippers. And many of the people in Germany or other countries with pets brought their animals before this new rule suddenly went into effect. I have noticed that the government has, sort of, been trying to gradually phase in the most draconian parts of this new rule. But they still pose a huge problem for a lot of people who make their living abroad.

My dogs have always flown as “excess baggage”, which means they flew on our flights in the hold of the aircraft. That is the most economical way to transport pets. When Bill was still in the Army, our dogs flew on United Airlines and Delta Airlines respectively. Last time we flew with dogs, back in 2014, they flew on Lufthansa, which is a wonderful airline for pets. The luggage hold on Lufthansa is light and temperature controlled, and the animals are loaded at the last minute, so they don’t have to sit on the tarmac. But the United States government has a rule that makes using pet friendly airlines tricky for people who are flying on the government’s dime.

Because of the Fly America Act, people who are flying on taxpayer funds must use an American carrier for as far as possible. At this writing, only a handful of American carriers are still allowing pets to fly. Some people can get around that rule by booking their flights on a codeshared flight. Say you’re flying to Germany. To comply with the Fly America Act, you should be booking your flight on United or Delta. But you can book a Lufthansa flight through United and still be in compliance. Of course, thanks to COVID-19 and the new CDC rule, it’s gotten much harder to book flights. Some airlines won’t fly animals in the baggage hold anymore. Some will only fly small animals in the cabin, which can be problematic for those who have pets who are too big. Military servicemembers can sometimes use the rotator (Patriot Express) to fly their pets, but spots are limited and book up very quickly. I have read a lot of horror stories from stressed out servicemembers trying to figure out how to get their pets home.

Many people have used pet shippers to fly their pets. I suspect that if and when Bill and I have to move to the States with pets, we will have to use a shipper. Noyzi is a big dog, and he will probably need a special crate. He isn’t very heavy, but he’s tall and long bodied, and there are very specific rules on the sizes of the carriers that can be used. I have been saving money, because I’m sure he’s going to need to go cargo with a pet shipper, and that costs several thousand dollars, as opposed to the couple hundred per pet charged when flying them as excess baggage. Flying with a shipper is also a hassle, since it involves the dog going through a different part of the airport and possibly not coming on the same flight. We are currently fortunate enough to be able to afford a shipper, but not everyone is.

All of this is a real pain for anyone with pets and living abroad, but what is actually prompting me to write this morning are the negative, ignorant, and dismissive attitudes I’ve seen in some of the comment sections on the articles I’ve seen about this new CDC rule. I get that a lot of pet owners have done some “crazy” things, like bringing their emotional support kangaroos or peacocks on planes. I also understand that there’s been some very bad press about animals dying because they were transported in weather that was too hot or cold, or because someone put them in the overhead bin (which is just plain stupid). But there really must be a safe, affordable, and accessible way for people to travel with animals. Especially if we’re serious about not abandoning pets at shelters. This new rule is going to cause issues from negative troop morale to hostile host country relations. It will probably also result in a lot of wonderful pets dying or being abandoned.

So many comments on The New York Times article were from people who wrote things like, “It’s just an animal” or “Good! I hate flying with pets!” or “Americans who live overseas shouldn’t have pets.” This self-centered attitude is really distressing to me. I don’t have a problem with my dogs flying under the cabin, but it should be safe and affordable. And people should not be so narrow-minded and shitty about people who need to move their pets. A lot of these self-entitled twits are the same ones who condemn other people for needing to rehome their pets. It would be nice if people, in general, would have more empathy and understanding for those who aren’t like them. I get that some people have allergies or don’t like animals. I don’t like dealing with some people or their kids… some of them give me a rash or a pain in the ass. It is what it is. Flying is a hassle for everybody.

One lady kept writing about how when she was a “military kid living overseas”, her parents didn’t allow her to have pets. She implied that those of us in that situation should “suck it up” and live without pets. I finally had to offer her a cookie and a reminder that as a military “brat”, she should know that military families are diverse. To some military families, pets are beloved companions who make life easier and more worthwhile. And while it may not be practical to have pets when there’s a chance one could move overseas, life happens to everyone. Sometimes people in civilian jobs get the opportunity or find that they must move abroad. There should be a solution for those people, too.

In my case, I was not able to have children, and I’ve followed my husband to several different states and twice to Germany for his career. The career I planned for in public health and social work, back when I was single, has turned into blogging. I know a lot of people don’t think my blogs are worth anything, but they give me a reason to get up in the morning. My dogs help keep me sane and happy, especially when he travels. I don’t have a lot of human friends. We rescued Noyzi from Kosovo, where he lived outside with a bunch of other dogs. He wasn’t being abused in that environment, but he’s much happier having a family. Every day, we get to see him evolve and become more loving and trusting toward us. It’s very rewarding for us, and, I imagine, for him.

When we moved to Germany with Zane and Arran in 2014, the rules were already stricter than they had been in 2007 and 2009, when we flew with our previous dogs. Now, they have become downright oppressive. We made the choice to move here in 2014 because we wanted to live in Germany, but it was also the only place where Bill had a firm job offer after his Army retirement. It was either move to Germany, or be unemployed and soon land in dire financial straits. The move was a good one for us, but thanks to this new rule from the CDC, we’re going to have to do what we can to stay here for as long as possible. Abandoning our dogs isn’t an option, and it shouldn’t be something people are forced to do over well-intended, but impractical, rules imposed by the CDC.

At this point, Germany is not on the list of high risk rabies countries, nor are other countries in the European Union. But because of the CDC’s new rule, a lot of European airlines are not wanting to transport animals. They don’t want to deal with the hassle. And who can blame them for that? After January 2022, it’s going to be a lot harder to bring animals into the United States, because only three “ports” will allow them to enter– Atlanta, JFK in New York City, and Los Angeles. That will cause backups for sure. I truly hope this rule will be amended or abolished at some point soon. Otherwise, Bill and I will have to stay here until Noyzi crosses the Rainbow Bridge. At twelve years old, we may not have to worry about Arran for too many more years… although he’s proving to be a real scrapper in his old age.

Rant over for now… tomorrow, we go on vacation, and the boys go to the Hundepension. Hopefully, it will go off without a hitch, and I can write some new content about actual travel.

Edited to add: Here’s a link to a book review I wrote about a lady in Virginia who, along with her mom, adopted dogs from Turkey. Military and government employees aren’t the only ones affected by this ruling. She rants about the new rule in her book, too.

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advice, airlines, coronavirus, Europe

Yankee– stay home!

Yesterday, I read a travel column on The New York Times‘ Web site. Someone had asked for advice about travel to Europe this summer. The article was entitled, “Help! I Want to go to Europe in August. Is This a Pipe Dream?” Below is the letter in question:

My husband and I are currently planning a trip to Ireland, Portugal and Italy for August and September. We are only reserving hotels with free cancellation policies and our airline tickets can be changed to a future date. Knowing that much of Europe is closed right now to United States citizens because of the virus, is there much hope that our plans will materialize, or are we wasting our time? What should I watch for? 

Kathy

The author of the column, Sarah Firsheim, wasn’t as discouraging to Kathy as she probably should have been. She pointed out that some destinations in Europe are opening up for tourists. Greece and Iceland, for example, are starting to welcome tourists again, as long as they’re vaccinated and/or have negative COVID-19 tests. She points out that a lot of hotels and airlines are becoming more flexible about stays, too.

What I would like to tell Kathy is that she needs her head examined. I don’t think flying to Europe is a good idea right now, especially for tourist purposes. But even if COVID-19 weren’t an issue, I would never recommend coming to Europe in August. Why? Because August is typically when Europeans go on vacation. Many businesses close while people take vacations or, if they happen to be expats from another country, they go “home” to see family. August is also uncomfortably hot in many parts of Europe, and not everywhere has climate control, although it is getting more common every year.

But especially this year, I think Americans coming to Europe is a dumb idea. I said so in the comment section, with this comment:

Everything is locked down in Europe. I live here now. Save your plane fare.

I got an “angry” reaction from some lady in Sweden, who says I’m wrong because things are not locked down in Sweden. This was my response to her. I will admit, I was a bit annoyed, because I’m tired of random yahoos on the Internet shooting people down and insulting them simply for expressing their opinions.

Happy for you in Sweden. Where I live, it’s been locked down since November. Same seems to be the case in all the neighboring nations. If I were living in America wanting to come thousands of miles to Europe, enduring an overnight flight on a plane, donning a mask while being poked in the back by my neighbor’s knees, and having the person in front of me reclined in my lap, I would want to be sure the trip was well worth it.

Right now, living in Europe and LOCKED DOWN for months, I would say it’s definitely not. Your mileage may vary in Sweden. *shrug*

And then the Swedish lady came back and wrote this:

We have never had locked down and I am happy for that. But we can’t do much anyhow can’t see friends. I would not have come here from US either.

Seems to me this would be obvious. I mean, technically, one could say that Germany never locked down like France or Spain did. It’s never been to the point at which one literally can’t go anywhere. But shops are closed; people aren’t supposed to visit (although my neighbors break this rule); some places have curfews; museums and attractions are closed; hotels are not allowed to accept bookings for anything but business travel… Why in the HELL would an American want to come to Europe under those conditions, except maybe to see family? So I responded thusly:

Yes, and that was my point. I am American and I live in Germany. I love Europe, but I wouldn’t want to come here from America now. Not until more people have been vaccinated and things are more the way they were before. I can count on one hand the number of times I have left my neighborhood since the fall. My car’s battery has died twice because there’s nowhere to drive, where I would go for a reason other than just to drive to keep the battery charged. It’s a lot of money and precious time off for most Americans to vacation in Europe. I think they should wait until they don’t have to make an appointment to shop.

Vaccination rollout here has been excruciatingly slow. Even the U.S. military, which was supposed to be getting us our vaccines sometime before the end of May, is now delayed because the shots they got were the Johnson & Johnson ones, which have caused clots in some women. And, at least in Germany, citizens can’t get vaccinated because there aren’t enough shots available yet. It’s going to take time before people are able to get the shots and things will be less weird.

I’m not sure if the Swedish lady realizes that many Americans– even those with good jobs– have a very limited amount of vacation time available to them. And that’s if they’re lucky enough to work full time and have benefits. Our culture doesn’t value leisure time like European culture does. A lot of people get two weeks– tops– per year for vacation purposes. Consequently, not only is it costly and uncomfortable to come to Europe from the United States, but those days off are very precious. And truly, I think Americans who are wanting to come to Europe this year are nuts, although I might consider visiting a place where things aren’t quite so restricted.

If I hadn’t decided against flying for the time being, maybe I would consider visiting Iceland, for instance. I have never been there and I would love to go. But, to be honest, the idea of flying is very unappealing to me right now. I think flying is unpleasant under the best of circumstances. People seem to turn into majorly selfish assholes when they’re on an airplane. Now, add in the fact that everyone is supposed to stay masked the whole time they’re flying… and not only is that uncomfortable and annoying, but now everyone on the plane is paying super close attention to what other people are doing, which I find weird and creepy.

The New York Times ran another article entitled “How Safe Are You From COVID When You Fly?” It was a pretty interesting article, complete with a cool interactive feature showing how air flow works. But just looking at the interactive feature creeped me out…

A creepy screenshot from the interactive simulator of everyone crowded together while wearing masks. It just looks really uncomfortable. Who wants to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for that experience, unless it’s absolutely necessary?
You can’t even eat a snack or drink something without everyone watching your every move, silently judging you and seeing how long it takes you to replace the mask. Creepy! Who wants to pay for that?

I do love to travel. I miss it, although I haven’t been as deprived as a lot of people have over the past year. But I don’t want to fly anywhere until the COVID-19 situation is more under control. I’ll fly if I MUST– like, if Germany kicks us out and we have to go back to the States. But I won’t be volunteering for the above experience anytime soon. I get the masks are important for now, but this whole coronavirus experience has made me dislike people even more than I ever did. And the idea of being mashed into a seat next to a bunch of cranky, hyper-vigilant people, right on the edge of making a scene over COVID-19 regulations, just makes me think flying is extremely unappealing right now. I would much rather drive, and not have to worry about fellow passengers and flight attendants observing my every move, fighting over armrests or seat recliners, getting through security, worrying about getting sick, using disgusting airplane lavatories, or any of the other many inconveniences and annoyances associated with flying.

And again… I think if you’re American and you’re looking for a vacation destination in Europe for this year, you need a reality check. Now is not the best time to be here. COVID-19 numbers are up, and things are very iffy in terms of border closures and lockdowns. I say, save your plane fare and go somewhere in North America.

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airlines, Virginia

A mostly effortless trip across the pond…

Bill and I arrived at Dulles airport on Tuesday night at about 5:00pm.  We were pretty tired.  Our day got started very early Tuesday morning in Germany.  Traffic getting to the airport in Stuttgart was pretty heavy and we moved at a snail’s pace on A81.  To make matters worse, my bladder decided to kick in about halfway through the trip, making me need to pee something fierce by the time we parked and hiked to the terminal.

I decided to pee after we checked in, which was probably a mistake.  The automated check in process for us via Air France’s kiosks didn’t go so smoothly.  I answered a security question “wrong”, so we had to have an agent issue us tickets.  The guy standing in line ahead of us had overweight baggage that he thought he’d already paid for, so that slowed us down a bit…  Meanwhile, my bladder was becoming more and more demanding and urgent for relief.

Once we were checked in and I paid a visit to the ladies room, we went through security.  An unsmiling guard was barking orders at me in German.  After removing all the non essential clothes and electronics, I paused to wait for an adorable little toddler whose mother was beckoning her to walk through the metal detector.  It was a pretty cute moment as the girl was more interested in watching everybody else.

My shoes had metal staples in them.  My bra also had metal hooks, which meant I had to be very thoroughly wanded by a rather ripe smelling lady who seemed very practiced in the art of frisking.  Once we got through security, we waited for our flight to Paris, which would deposit us in an even less user friendly airport.  I was kind of impressed by the weird modern art looking furniture in the terminal that looked very well used.  I remember spending a hellish 12 hours in CDG back in 1995 before I moved to Armenia for two years.  It does look like they’ve done some work to make the airport a little less unpleasant.  Still, I wish I’d been able to get WiFi.  They apparently offer it at CDG, but I never could get it to work or even charge my electronics.

The flight to Paris was quick and relatively painless.  The Paris hop planes have 2×2 seating.  Bill and I each had an aisle seat on the same row.  Fortunately, we had nice people sitting next to us and a gentle landing.  I know a lot of people take the train to Paris, but I have to admit the quick flight there is amazing.  I like Air France, too.  Of course, the woman sitting in front of me was the only one on the entire plane who felt the need to recline.  I thought it was funny that I had a recliner in front of me on a one hour flight, but the guy who sat in front of me to Washington, DC didn’t recline at all!

I was hoping to grab a quick lunch at the airport in Paris, but unfortunately, there weren’t really any restaurants in the terminal where we got our flight.  Bill bought me a Coke and a chocolate croissant. Ordinarily, that would have been okay, but I was needing protein in a big way.  Bought myself a Snickers bar and silently vowed to bring a bag of nuts with me on my next long haul flight.

The flight to Washington was long, but basically quite pleasant.  I was very impressed by Air France; in fact, I think I liked them better than Lufthansa, which we flew to Germany in August.  The seats were, I thought, pretty generous even for a stout girl like me.  The flight attendants were very professional and pleasant.  In fact, one guy seemed especially solicitous.  After a champagne apertif, he brought out our meals.  We had a choice of parmesan risotto or chicken with sherry sauce.  I chose the risotto because I thought it might not have evil mushrooms in it.  Bill asked for chicken.  At first, the flight attendant said they were out of the chicken, but then he found one and brought it to Bill.  Good thing, too, because the risotto did have mushrooms.  Bill kindly gave me his chicken, which was actually edible and even tasted pretty good!  The flight attendant asked me what I wanted to drink I showed him that I had syrah.  He asked, with a big smile with a delightful French accent, “Is it enough?  Would you like more?”  I giggled and he brought me another, different type of wine!

I don’t enjoy transatlantic flights at all, but that one goes down as one of the better ones.  Hopefully, the flights back to Germany will be decent, too.  I am definitely sold on European carriers over American ones.

Anyway, we are now in Goshen, Virginia… and yes, we did get caught in the storm yesterday, which made driving down here challenging.  But we were rewarded with this…

Goshen is sooo beautiful!

I will be writing reviews of our lodging and more trip details as they evolve.

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airlines, Germany

Repost of my Germanwings review…

I wrote this review on Epinions.com back in 2009, so some of the information is no longer accurate.  Still, I am going to repost it here for those who are thinking about a Germanwings flight, particularly if they wish to do a “blind booking“.  At this point, I have done three blind bookings– two since this review was posted.  I still think they are a blast, even if they aren’t as good of a deal as they once were.

ETA: Germanwings is now called Eurowings.

Europe beckons… German Wings delivers, even booking blind!

 Jan 19, 2009 (Updated May 29, 2012)

Review by   
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Clean planes, professional staff, very reasonable fares and plenty of cities.

Cons:Early flight time this morning… nothing is free or included. Flies into outlying airports.

The Bottom Line: We’re loving blind booking.  Can’t wait to try it again!

My husband Bill and I are temporarily living near Stuttgart, Germany and we want to see as much of Europe as we possibly can. While I tend to be kind of skeptical about the so-called discount airlines, my ears perked up last month when Bill introduced me to German Wings and their “blind booking” program. For 29.99 Euros per person, per direction, travelers can choose a theme and purchase flights from Stuttgart, Hannover, or Cologne, Germany. The catch? You don’t know where you’re going until you’ve paid. It sounded like a great deal to me, not to mention a blast. I was game for it.

Bill and I accessed German Wings’ Web site and decided we wanted to pick a flight from the grouping of cities called “Metropolis Westeurope”. That group included Barcelona, Berlin, Hamburg, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Rome, and Vienna. Any one of those cities would have been okay with us, but had we wanted to, we could have paid an extra 2.5 euros per person and per direction to exclude one of them from the list. German Wings allows up to three exclusions and each one results in an additional five euro charge. We knew Bill would have a long weekend for Martin Luther King Day, so we plugged those dates into the database, put in our preferences, and paid using Bill’s credit card. We ended up with a flight for two going to London! I must admit, it was pretty exciting to find out where we were going. Better yet, after taxes, our round trip flights cost us the equivalent of about $145.  That’s $145 for two people.  I doubt we will ever get an equivalent deal flying from the States!

Pack light!

As I mentioned before, German Wings is a discount airline. That means it’s strictly no frills and offers only “coach class” service. We were each allowed one bag at no more than 23 kilos. Carry on luggage is limited to 8 kilograms. Once you go over that limit, you’re charged five euros per kilogram. Purses, umbrellas, and coats may be carried without any penalty. Bill usually packs light anyway, but I made an effort to economize on my luggage so that we wouldn’t be charged.  I came in well under the limit.

Check in

We arrived at Stuttgart’s airport and easily found the German Wings booth. A pleasant lady checked our passports, weighed our luggage, and issued us boarding passes. I was glad to see that German Wings has assigned seating, so Bill and I were able to sit with each other. Online check in is also available. We were on our way.

The seats…

Our flight to and from London’s Stanstead Airport was on an Airbus 319 aircraft. The seats were pretty small and set up in a three by three configuration. Being quite a bit plumper than I’d like to be, I was relieved to find that I fit in the seat with no problem, although the seatbelt was fairly short. I was able to use it without an extender, but very large or tall people might find themselves quite cramped. Leg room is also in short supply.  Since Bill and I both have short legs, we weren’t too bothered by that except for when we had to get in and out of our seats. People with long legs might have a very different experience.

As it turned out, our flights to and from London were only about half full. We had a whole row to ourselves going both directions. I was glad to see that the plane was very clean on both flights.

The staff

All flight attendants on German Wings at least speak German (naturally) and English and all onboard announcements are done in German and English. The flight attendants on our flights were very professional and efficient. One even demonstrated a sense of humor… although she did so in German! In any case, we had no issues at all with any of the staff members we encountered.

No frills!

I can’t stress enough that German Wings is a budget airline. That means no free drinks, no peanuts or crackers, and no free earphones, pillows, or blankets. However, food and drink, as well as a bizarre array of other items, are for sale on the aircraft. German Wings sells Coke products, beer, wine, prosecco, coffee, hot chocolate, tea, and a variety of juices, as well as sandwiches, candy, and chips. They also sell model German Wings planes, earphones, jewelery, and cologne.  Because German Wings is a discount airline, that means that it often flies into smaller airports further away from city centers.  London’s Stanstead airport, for instance, is a 45 minute train ride on the Stanstead Express to and from London’s Liverpool Station.  Coaches take even longer.

The flight

Right off the bat, we were happy to find that we had plenty of room on our flights because they were only about half full. No wonder German Wings is offering such deals! The 75 minute flight itself was basically very smooth and quiet. Both left on time. We did have a slight delay getting back to Germany because the Stuttgart airport was closed briefly due to freezing rain. However, that passed quickly and we landed safely after just a few minutes of circling.

One drawback to “blind booking”

The one thing Bill and I didn’t like about our blind booking experience was that we ended up with a very early flight out of Stanstead. We flew out of England at 8:00am, and because Stanstead is located about 45 minutes by train from London, that meant we were up at an ungodly hour to make our flight. However, given how inexpensive and hassle free the experience was, we think having to rise early was a small price to pay. We liked the blind booking experience so much, we’re already planning to do it again. Perhaps next time, we’ll choose the Metropolis Easteurope grouping of cities, which would allow us to surprise book Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest, Dresden, Katowice (near Krakow), Leipzig, Sarajevo, Warsaw, or Zagreb. Since we’ve already been to Dresden, we would just pay an extra 2.5 euros each per direction to exclude it from the list.

Other information

Although German Wings has hubs in Berlin, Stuttgart, Cologne, it flies to 67 cities throughout Europe. Not all cities are included in the “blind booking” fares and blind booking can only be accessed from Berlin, Cologne, or Stuttgart. Cologne seems to be German Wings’ biggest hub.

Overall

German Wings is not a luxury airline by any stretch, but we had a perfectly nice flight that was extremely cheap. This morning, a cabbie offered to drive us from our hotel to Stanstead Airport. The fare for that 45 minute trip would have likely been more expensive than the plane tickets! We left our flight today thinking that we’d have no problem using German Wings for as many short, European based flights as possible before we get sent back to America. If you need an inexpensive Europe based flight, I think you’d do well to check out German Wings… and if you just want to try blind booking, I’d recommend that too! It may be a gimmick, but it’s definitely a fun gimmick!

German Wings’ Web site: http://www.germanwings.com/index.en.shtml

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advice, airlines, anecdotes

Just bought tickets to DC…

Not that I really want to go back to the States, but I am expected to put in an appearance at my dad’s memorial over the Thanksgiving holiday…  It’s been four years since we last had Thanksgiving with my family and we’re overdue, I guess.

I used to really love Thanksgiving with my big, southern, fun loving family.  Now that I’m older, I think I like our quieter, less involved celebrations more.  And really, going back to the States from Germany is a pain, especially since this will be the fourth transatlantic trip we’ve done this year.

Some folks on Stuttgart Friends turned me on to ABC Travel Service, a German travel agency that offers discounted flights to American military and government employees.  I ended up scoring two round trip tickets from Stuttgart to Washington, DC by way of Paris for $1436.  Unfortunately, we ended up with a really long layover in Paris on the way back.  If we can’t get that flight changed (it’s only about an hour), I guess we’ll just go into the city for a long lunch and some shopping.

Of course, I will probably not be in the best of moods when we land. I don’t sleep on planes and I imagine I’ll be tired, cranky, and emotional.  But there are worse places to be stuck.  As long as we can get out of the airport, it’ll probably be okay.

We could also take a train or drive back to Stuttgart, but I don’t know how many bags we’ll have.  I doubt we’ll want to drive and deal with Paris traffic or crowded trains.

So far, I’m kind of impressed by ABC Travel Service.  I made the reservations yesterday evening and within an hour, they came back to me asking for a proper billing address (their Web site only offered one for home addresses).  I got back to them and within another hour, we were confirmed.

I expect to have a full review of the travel service and the airline once this is all done.  I’m thinking we’ll be on Air France, but I won’t be surprised if we end up on a code share flight, too.

I will be glad to be done with this trip home, so I can focus on European travel!

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advice, airlines, anecdotes

My thoughts on the Knee Defender…

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve probably heard about the three incidents that have occurred over a person’s right to recline on an aircraft.  It’s a controversial issue, with a lot of people weighing in on either side of it.  Personally, I am against reclining and don’t do it, even when I’m on a long haul flight.  I have short legs, so leg room is rarely an issue for me.  For other people, flying in coach can be an especially nightmarish experience because they are too tall or too fat to fit in the seats.

I had heard about the Knee Defender some time ago.  It’s a gadget that costs about $22 and, when clipped to a person’s tray table, prevents the person in front of them from reclining.  United passenger James Beach received it as a gift from his wife at Christmas and has been using the device to prevent people in front of him from reclining.  He reportedly never had issues with the people in front of him reclining until August 24, when he was trying to work on his laptop and the woman sitting in front of him tried to recline and couldn’t.  Beach and his fellow passenger ended up getting in a fight on the aircraft and both were disembarked in Chicago.

I can understand why people think using the Knee Defender is wrong; after all, if they paid for a seat that reclines, they should be able to recline, right?  On the other hand, isn’t it also wrong not to have consideration for the person sitting behind you?  Mr. Beach was using his tray table and doing work with his $2000 laptop computer when the woman in front of him “slammed” her seat back.  Then she threw soda on him, which could have also ruined his computer and affected his livelihood.

It seems to me that more civility is needed from all angles.  Airlines need to give people more room and pay more attention to keeping their passengers comfortable, even if it means higher fares.  My guess is that the people who really need to fly will pay the higher fares and a lot of them will be grateful for the extra space.

Passengers need to be more tolerant and considerate.  We should be less hesitant to speak up when someone makes us uncomfortable and, at the same time, we should pay more attention to the person beside us and their comfort.  Yes, you have the right to recline, but that doesn’t mean you should always do so, especially if you’re on a short flight.

What’s really funny about this situation is that since this incident, sales of the Knee Defender have skyrocketed, despite the fact that several US airlines prohibit their use.  This is a sign that there are a lot of people out there who hate reclining seats and airlines may have to contend with more incidents involving Knee Defenders.  But really, I think what the airlines ought to do is take out a row of seats and give people a little more room.  That way the seat recliners can recline and tall people don’t have to worry about their knees needing to be defended.

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airlines, Germany

My review of our flight on Lufthansa…

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.

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airlines, book reviews

A review of Patrick Smith’s Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel: Questions, Answers, and Reflections

I have been doing a lot of flying lately.  In 2014 alone, I’ve flown across the Atlantic three times.  I also flew to Virginia to see my dad for the last time before he passed away last month and flew on a couple of European flights, too.  In the years prior to 2014, I took quite a few trips by plane.  It’s not so much that I enjoy flying; I really don’t.  It’s just that flying is faster than driving is and some of the places we’ve gone haven’t offered a better alternative.

When I saw Patrick Smith’s book, Cockpit Confidential,  I immediately decided to buy it.  I did this not knowing that Smith has had a popular column on Salon.com and Web site called Ask the Pilot.  For years, Smith, who has worked as a pilot since 1990, has been answering questions put to him by the masses.  He explains in his book that he has been passionate about airplanes since he was a young lad and made it his mission to get into the industry.  And so he has… but I think he’s also a very good writer.  I really enjoyed his book.

Filled with personal stories about his time as a pilot as well as informative articles on how airplanes and the airline industry works, Smith does a good job educating his readers.  The book also offers answers to questions people have sent in.  Not only are Smith’s answers interesting and informative, they are also very entertaining.

I got a kick out of reading about how even pilots get harassed by the TSA.  Smith writes a colorful anecdote about how one time, his knife– the same knife that was used on the very aircraft he was about to pilot– was confiscated by the TSA.  The reason?  It was serrated.  Smith explains that it was a stretch to call the knife serrated, but because the knife had little ridges on it, it was deemed unsafe.  This, even though the passengers in the first class and business cabins on his airplane would be using the same knife as they tucked into their in flight meals.

Smith also writes about how pilots and flight attendants have to be screened like you and I do…  but the folks who are hauling your suitcases, cleaning the planes, and stocking the galleys with food can come and go with a simple swipe of their ID cards.  Granted, Smith explains that they are always subject to being searched randomly, but they don’t have to deal with the same screening ordeals the rest of us do.  If you think about it, that’s a little unsettling.

Smith covers a huge range of topics, which is why his book runs for 320 pages.  But once you’re finishing reading it, you will be a lot better informed about all things pertaining to the airline industry.  He writes about how to become a pilot and how it’s not nearly as glamorous or well paying as it might seem; in 1990, when Smith got his first pilot job, he was getting a mere $850 a month.  He writes about the history of some of our best known airlines, many of which are no longer around.  Some of his commentary is hilariously snarky, too.  His comments about some of the ad slogans and cutesy names airlines give their planes are pretty funny.

If you’ve ever wondered how planes fly, Smith has you covered.  He offers a detailed explanation about how it’s possible to get a metal tube filled with thousands of pounds into the air.  He also explains how some “emergencies” aren’t really emergencies.  And he even dares to explain why Chesley Sullenberger’s landing on the Hudson River was not as impressive as it seemed.  Ever wanted to check out the cockpit?  You can, you know… not while the plane is flying, obviously, but before or after the flight.  You don’t have to be a kid, either.  Smith says a lot of pilots are kind of flattered when people express an interest in seeing their work space.  Just ask a flight attendant to find out if it’s okay.

I like non-fiction books, especially when they satisfy my curiosity about things I’ve always wondered about.  I have read a number of books by flight attendants, but Smith’s Cockpit Confidential is the first book I’ve read by a pilot.  He did a great job demystifying the airline industry for me.  I would definitely recommend Cockpit Confidential to anyone who has ever been curious about the airline industry.  I also think it’s good reading for anyone who has ever considered a career in aviation.

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airlines

Paying for a seat reservation…

So I asked Mr. Bill to check out seat reservations on our Germany flight.  There were none, so he decided to make them.  But it turns out Lufthansa charges for seat reservations made more than 24 hours in advance.  A lot of seats were taken and he didn’t want to risk us being seated apart.  So he paid $70 for us to be able to sit together.  Considering one of the seats he reserved was a middle seat, I kind of think it sucks.  But I’d rather pay the $70 and know we have seats together than not, I guess.

If you don’t want to pay the money, you can risk reserving your seat 23 hours before you take off.  It probably would have worked out if we hadn’t reserved our seats, but this move is stressful enough as it is.  By this time next week, I expect to be comatose in some German hotel.  Bill will be preparing for his new job and I will be entertaining the dogs and looking for housing.  Should be fun.

I’m getting pretty sick of all the nickeling and diming on flights these days…  I hope we enjoy Lufthansa, though.  I bet we’ll like it better than United.  At the same time, shame on Lufthansa for charging $70.  Or maybe shame on us for paying it…  I did laugh when Bill said our seats are near the latrine.

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airlines

Repost of my Delta Airlines review from 2009…

I’m reposting this review I wrote of Delta Airlines back in 2009.  Ordinarily, I wouldn’t post such an old review, but this one has the dramatic story of how Bill, Flea, MacGregor, and I got out of Germany.  Since Bill and I are moving back to Germany and are facing moving our pets again, I want to put this story out there for those who think it’s cruel to fly with pets.  I think it’s a lot more cruel to abandon them or try to rehome them if you don’t have to.  Besides, we know for a fact that dogs are much loved in Germany and, in many ways, it’s nicer for them there than it is in the United States.  That being said, I wish we could postpone this move until the fall, when it won’t be so hot outside.

Incidentally, we use Delta more than the other American carriers.  I prefer them to USAirways, American, and United.  I’m hoping we can fly on a European carrier this next time, since it appears that they are more prepared to deal with animals.

Delta did fine in the face of drama and disaster

Sep 16, 2009 (Updated May 23, 2010)
Review by   

Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Took good care of us and our dogs. Basically comfortable. Great flight attendants.

Cons:Fare for dogs was high. Food wasn’t that great. Entertainment system down.

The Bottom Line:Delta performed admirably in the face of a disaster.

Be warned… this is going to be a long review! Our dealings with Delta were such that I feel the long review is warranted.

My husband Bill and I, as well as our two beagles Flea and MacGregor, very reluctantly left Stuttgart, Germany yesterday after having lived near there for the past two years. We enjoyed Germany so much that none of us were eager to board our flight to Atlanta, scheduled for September 14th at 11:00am. Nevertheless, Bill had his orders and I, as his bride, was forced to go back to the States a year sooner than expected.

Bill tends to get very nervous about taking care of little details. This is one of the things about him that I alternately appreciate or am annoyed by, since the byproduct of all that nervousness can often be unwarranted stress. A week before our scheduled flight out of Stuttgart, we were in the airport after a flight from Budapest. Bill had to go double check with Delta for details about how they would deal with our precious canine cargo. He left the airport that day feeling reassured, but was still kind of nervous when we arrived for check in at 9:00am with Flea and MacGregor in tow, even though they had flown over with us two years prior.

Checking in

Many Germans love dogs and Delta’s Germany based employees were no exception. Flea and MacGregor were in their carriers as we wheeled them up to the person who asks the vital security questions about who had packed our luggage and whether or not we had taken anything into our possession on behalf of a stranger. Those questions answered, Bill was allowed to use the Business Elite check in, since he has a Sky Miles card. The check in agent took three of our four bags and instructed Bill to deposit his bulky duffel back at the bulk luggage counter, the same place we would be leaving Flea and MacGregor. She filled out all the paperwork for the dogs’ travels, charged Bill about $400 for the dogs’ fares, and even came around to say hi to them. 

Bulk luggage

Another Delta employee walked us to the bulk luggage counter and helped us deal with the man working it, who didn’t seem to speak much English. We took the dogs out of their carriers and sent their carriers through the x-ray, then walked them through the metal detector. After the bulk luggage staff fawned over our pooches, we stuffed them back into their carriers and said goodbye.

Boarding

It seemed to be business as usual at the gate as we waited to be called on board. Bill had gotten us seats in the so-called “preferred coach section”. However, we were grouped into different boarding zones. Bill was in the second group, and I was supposed to be in the fourth. I can only guess this was because Bill is a member of Delta’s frequent flyer program and I’m not. Anyway, no one said anything when we boarded together. We sat down in the leather upholstered seats 16C and 16E, located in the center three seated row. We also prayed that no one would take 16D.  No one did.

The plane was clean, with two by three by two seating.  The flight attendants seemed very friendly, and we had blankets, pillows, eye masks, and earphones at our disposal. The seat pockets held in flight magazines, a duty free catalog, sick bags, and safety cards. There were screens on the wall and at intervals between seats that showed our planned route out of Europe. Those GPS updates are my favorite things about long haul flights. I generally hate most everything else about them. It seemed like we were in store for a run of the mill transatlantic flight.

At approximately 10:50am

Most folks had boarded the plane by 10:45am. We were listening to the usual pre-boarding announcements from the flight attendants, who delivered them in English and German. Another flight attendant was passing out newspapers in German as well as the Financial Times in English. Bill was fussing a little about the dogs, but then a flight attendant handed us little tags that assured us they were safely aboard. We were all set to get going when the captain came over the loudspeaker to let us know that a small situation had developed with a Lufthansa plane. It seemed there was a minor mechanical problem which would delay us a little bit. No problem. We sat back and relaxed, stealing glances at the monitors on the wall that showed the minutes ticking away. 

11:15am

The captain made another announcement, this time to tell us that the mechanical problem was worse than he first thought. The small Lufthansa plane (Contact Air) had landed with no rear landing gear. It had slid on its belly down the runway, leaving a trail of fire and smoke in its wake. The captain reported that no one of the 78 on board was seriously hurt in the dramatic landing, but the plane would need to be towed and all the debris would have to be cleaned up before we could be on our way.  He added that Stuttgart Airport only has one runway, so the delay would be between 2 and 7 hours.

There was a chorus of groans from the passengers. Bill and I immediately recognized that the dogs would need to be liberated from their carriers at least once before we took off. Bill went to speak to a flight attendant about our dogs while I sat and waited with everyone else. A supervisor asked Bill to wait until at least the two hour mark before they took the dogs off the plane. She added that they had fresh air, light, and water while we were waiting. 

Everybody off…

Meanwhile, the captain invited everyone on board to deplane if they wanted to. Delta would be providing drinks and sandwiches for the wait. Bill and I decided to stay on board, since we knew it would be crowded at the gate and the seats in the airport were not more comfortable than the ones on the plane were. Only a few of us had decided not to deplane, which gave us a chance to chat with the very friendly flight attendants.

We peeked out the windows and caught a glimpse of the maintenance vehicles that were dispatched to help clean up the mess left by the disabled aircraft. After we’d been sitting on board for a couple of hours, I told Bill I wanted to get off the plane because I was starting to get hungry. We went back to the gate and could see that we’d been smart to stay on board. There were few seats to be had.

Delta deals with the disaster

A smartly dressed Delta supervisor had a microphone in hand. She had just announced that she was about 99% sure our flight was going to be canceled. I grabbed a Coke and looked around at all the other folks, some of whom were eager to leave Germany because they had business or vacation plans. I was in no hurry to leave Germany, but I was eager to get out of transit.

A few minutes later, the Delta supervisor announced that our flight was canceled and rescheduled for the following morning at 8:00am. She immediately started giving us information about what we needed to do. First, she told us we would not be able to get our checked luggage. Then she looked at Bill and said, “The only thing coming off the plane is this gentleman’s dogs.” That comment got a laugh out of everyone.

Next, the supervisor addressed the fact that some people were losing a vacation day. She said Delta would be happy to change tickets for those folks, but they would not be able to change the destination. In other words, there would be no trying to score a ticket to Hawaii if the final destination was supposed to be Tampa. She told us Delta would put us up in a hotel for the night, provide transportation to said hotel, and give us meal vouchers. 

Gone to the dogs

When the supervisor was finished talking, people descended on her like a pack of vultures. I was concerned about Flea and MacGregor, who were no doubt scared and confused by all of this. After ten or fifteen minutes of confusion, I grabbed their leashes and went off in search of my dogs. I finally found them in the baggage claim near lost and found. Flea was pitching a fit, of course, while MacGregor was sitting quietly, taking everything in.

A very pleasant baggage clerk asked me if they were my dogs. I said they were and she helped me take them out of their carriers and put them on leashes. I was very impressed by how much care and consideration this lady showed toward me and my dogs. I’m not sure if she worked for Delta or the airport, but she was uncommonly kind. She directed me to leave the carriers with her and take the dogs outside so they could do their business. I happily took her up on her suggestion and started looking for Bill. 

Reunited…

It took Bill some time to get our vouchers. Meanwhile, I was trying to find him and walked our pooches all over the airport in my search. Finally, I decided it made the most sense to wait near the baggage claim. I went back there with my dogs and waited, trying to keep Flea from being too disruptive.

Flea is a tiny beagle, but he has an enormous voice. He has no qualms about sounding off, especially in a busy place like an airport. He immediately got to work attracting attention to himself while I tried to keep him quiet. The lady from the baggage claim came out and asked me about the dogs’ carriers. I said I still hadn’t found Bill, so she offered to bring the carriers out to me. She even asked me if we needed food for the dogs, explaining that she lived on the other side of the airport and her dog had recently died. She had some food we could have if we needed it. Bill, being an excellent planner, had food for the dogs. What he didn’t have was Flea’s medication, which was stuffed in my suitcase. That, of course, was my fault– Flea’s pain medication for his cancer is in a 100ml bottle, which I thought might have given us trouble through security. I’d like to thank the liquid bomb plotters for that… Flea let out a few air horn like barks, which led Bill directly to us.

Together again… and trying to escape the airport

Our next problem was finding out if both the taxi and the hotel would accept our dogs. The very kind baggage clerk helped us out with that situation as well. First, she found out that the hotel would take our dogs. Next, she helped find a sympathetic cab driver. The hotel had a shuttle bus, but it was not suitable for carrying the dogs. Most of the cab drivers wanted nothing to do with transporting our dogs. Finally, one driver said he wasn’t supposed to take dogs, but he’d do it anyway. The baggage clerk then helped me, Bill, our dogs, and one lady in a wheelchair, get settled in the cab. She even asked Bill to look in on the lady for her.

Accommodations

I will write a separate review about Delta’s choice of hotels for us. For now, I will just say that it was a relatively nice four star business class hotel. The food vouchers covered a buffet meal and water. 

Flight to Atlanta take two

So our trip back to America got started bright and early yesterday morning. At 5:30am, the same kindly taxi driver was waiting for me, Bill, the dogs, and the lady in the wheelchair. Our group was ready, but the lady in the wheelchair was late coming down. We finally got to the airport at about 6:00am, but then it turned out the lady had left some of her luggage behind. Somehow, she managed to get it before we got on board. 

Check in, part two

We had to check the dogs in again and get new boarding passes. Flea let out a howl or three while we were in line, which alerted the super nice baggage clerk who had been so helpful the day before. She came up to say goodbye to us and even told us about the airport pharmacy, which had over the counter medicines for dogs. I wish we had known about that before, but it’s useful information for next time. The baggage clerk seemed irritated for us that we had to go through the check in process again. I was sorry to say goodbye to her.

The lady who checked us in the second time was not as efficient as the first agent was. She didn’t seem to know what she was doing in regards to the dogs. Nevertheless, we somehow managed to get through it. We dropped the dogs off at bulk luggage, once again letting them charm the staff there.

Getting on board, second go

The Delta official who tore our tickets for us let us know that our dogs were on board the aircraft and ready to go. We all got back in our seats and took off with no problem at 8:00am.

The flight

Our flight lasted about 9.5 hours. Unfortunately, the entertainment system wasn’t working, so I couldn’t watch the progress of our flight. That was kind of a bummer. Otherwise, the flight was very smooth and efficient. We even landed in Atlanta a few minutes early. 

Food and beverage

This was one area that I wasn’t as impressed with. We were served a brunch not long after takeoff and had a choice of a cheese omelet with hashbrowns or chicken and rice. I decided to go with the cheese omelet, because I figured it was less likely to be gussied up with my least favorite food in the world, mushrooms. Well… unfortunately, the omelet did include a mushroom sauce. Luckily, it came with a roll and butter, a stick of cheese, fruit salad, cookies, and orange juice, plus an additional drink. I didn’t get a good look at the chicken, but it looked like it came with a salad.

The drink cart came through a second time, as the flight attendants offered water, coffee, and tea. I saw them pour soft drinks for some folks as well. Throughout the flight, they offered water, which was very welcome. I don’t remember any other carrier doing that, even when I’ve flown transatlantic. A couple of hours later, the drink cart came through again along with free peanuts and snacks that could be purchased. Bill was all set to pay for some wine, but it turned out the wine was complimentary. I’m guessing beer was free, too, though spirits were not. We bought a $2 bag of peanut M&Ms.

Toward the end of the flight, we were given little cheese pizzas, which were a bit salty, but edible. I washed mine down with another cup of wine. I guess I should be glad we got offered anything at all, given the state of the airlines these days. On the other hand, food that doesn’t taste good is kind of a waste of resources. I would rather pay for better food than get free food I don’t want to eat.

One thing I noticed

People seemed to have real trouble figuring out how to open the lavatory door. I watched person after person try to figure out where the door was and how to open it. It was pretty funny to watch. 

Happy landings

Our dogs arrived safe and sound in Atlanta and quickly made their presence known with a few sonic yelps. Thankfully, folks in Atlanta seem to know about beagles. A few people even admired Flea’s hunting prowess as he tried to bag a pigeon in the pick up area. 

Overall

I really think Delta did a fine job in taking care of us after the disaster in Stuttgart. Just about all of the flights going out of Stuttgart were canceled on Monday and I noticed there was another big Delta flight that was supposed to be going to Birmingham (England or Alabama, I don’t know) that was also affected. Delta took care of them, too. I haven’t used this airline enough times to know if it’s better or worse than other American carriers, but I was impressed with them this time. I would definitely try them again

For more information: http://www.delta.com

Footage of the “crash” on September 14, 2009.

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