Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Flight Report: Challenging Copenhagen Connection Complications

Flying back from Sweden gave me a chance to experience something new: A fully missed connection with no later flights to my final destination. In the past, a delay has meant a couple of extra hours and maybe a rebooking to a red eye, but this time around the flight I missed was the last one of the day and the flight that was delayed by three hours was the last one out of Copenhagen to the US. In other words, I’m not getting home today. Here's what happened...

The first plane of the day

The day started out well enough: One of my friends gave me a ride to the airport in exchange for a Starbucks mug with “Stockholm” on it, and the first flight of the day was a quick hop to Copenhagen: A true bread and butter flight on a trusty 737. It was a wet start from Stockholm and we were quickly on top of a steady blanket of clouds which would be the scenery for the flight. On the approach the cloud cover gave way and revealed a bit of the countryside of southern Sweden, and the landing itself was in some pretty gusty cross winds. Once on the ground and in the airport, this is where the fun started…

After the break, the full story, lessons learned, and another example of a Kosher meal in flight, this time on SAS.
Leaving Stockholm. The yellow is from the deicing chemicals.

More clouds...
Skåne, The south of Sweden

Over Östersund, about to land in Copenhagen


"I bet that's my next plane..."

Immediately on arrival my next flight, SK943 was delayed, but only by 20 minutes. That’s nothing to worry about, especially since I had a good two hour layover in ORD. I parked myself in the lounge and started to wait, but the number slowly crawled higher: 1600, 1630, 1700, 1800, and finally 1830.  At 1700, I was already searching out alternative routing but there was no way to get back to Seattle without an overnight somewhere. It was going to be what it was going to be, and the only thing I could do was to wait for SAS to fix their airbus and get us in the air.

This is one of the perks of being a frequent flyer and the last time I'll be in a lounge for awhile..

"Yup. That's my plane. Still here."

At 1830, the plane pushed back and we were on our way. The flight was pretty packed with Scandinavians and Americans coming home, and since it was dark outside there wasn’t much I could actually take pictures of. The view from the air was actually quite amazing once we got over the ocean: Away from civilization there is still a sky full of stars. I have always hoped for northern lights on flights like this, but never caught them from the plane.

Inside, there wasn’t much to see. The earphones and the adapter provided are remarkably poorly thought out: Most people have headphones with a standard jack that need to somehow fit in the two prong headphone socket, but SAS provides to pronged headphones and an adapter to fit the headphones into a standard socket. It’s all backwards, literally. Dinner was Swedish meatballs and a side salad, except this time I my kosher meal was on board. Basque style chicken and rice, plus apple sauce, saltines, chips, and a cookie. Not bad at all. It looked much more appetizing than the alternative.

Kosher Meal: SK943 out of Copenhagen, "Basque Chicken"

…but the real contrast was between the regular light meal and the kosher light meal. The standard option was bread and cheese, plus a “Smakis” juice box. That’s not bad, but the alternative was a “Norwegian” salmon salad, plus the same sides as before (sans chips). At the very least, going with kosher meals is far more interesting. So far I haven’t had the same dish twice when ordering them!
Light Kosher Meal: SK943 out of Copenhagen, Norwegian Salmon Salad (Tastes better than it looks)


Not how I imagined I would spend my night

We touched down in ORD just in time to see my plane leave. Literally. We arrived at 2030, which would have put the 2015 flight to Seattle on the tarmac and I wouldn’t be surprised if the United flight that taxied past us was that exact flight. After clearing customs, I met up with some of the other passengers that would be stuck overnight as well. There was a voucher waiting for us for a hotel, plus $20 for dinner and $10 for breakfast. My plan was to try something new at the bar with the dinner certificate since we just ate on the plane, but unfortunately, I found out later that the voucher doesn’t cover alcoholic drinks so I skipped that idea. I also found at that breakfast started at 7am, but I needed to be at the airport then so the $10 would go unused as well.

Lessons learned:

  • If you're in this type of situation and will be delayed overnight, ask for a hotel voucher and food vouchers.
  • Food vouchers can't be used for alcohol. Be sure to ask what is covered before ordering anything.
  • Be aware of when restaurants close: Vouchers are worthless if there's no where to spend them. If it looks like you will be delayed and it's getting late, ask for the vouchers well before the restaurants close. In my case, the main restaurant at the hotel was already shutdown for the night, but there was still a bar menu.
  • Be sure to set your alarm and that your alarm is set to the right time zone.
In the morning, it was off again and back into an airbus. For a moment, it looked like they might be looking for volunteers, but it was just another completely full plane, this time an airbus A320. 

The flight was quick a few interesting views from the wing, but overall I was just happy to be back in Seattle! That's another trip down and gives me a few days to rest before my next to Las Vegas! I'll be there for Christmas this year just for fun.

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