The Journey Home
The week of music making and coaching composers at The Bavarian Music Academy in Marktoberdorf was full of wonderful people, great tutors/conductors and musicians who were keen to perform well together and enjoy one another’s company. After a great concert on Saturday evening and a final drink together in the Bierkeller, everyone met at breakfast to say their goodbyes.
I was fortunate to get a lift to Munich Airport with Andreas, who kindly took me right to the terminal in very good time. We chatted about the lack of traffic and the great course which had just concluded.
In the airport there was a big queue (Q1) which appeared to be for the Sky Priority check-in. I wended my way to the front of the ordinary check in and wondered if I was in the right place. Priority had only one desk open, manned by someone with the speed and motivation of a tortoise glued to the floor. I started to think that I must be in the wrong queue and might have to move to the back of the now huge amount of people mesmerised by the lack of progress. Just then a slightly more animated person opened the non-priority desk and the whole queue fell in behind me. After dropping the case off, the agent gestured for me to head left, which I obediently did. It took a while to work out that the security gate was the other way.
The next queue(Q2) was for security. The Sky Priority people had one gate and the others three. Self scanning of the boarding card is meant to save time and labour but it doesn’t because half of them don’t scan properly and the grumpy gate keeper has to come out and enter the numbers by hand. He had to do that for me and I definitely scanned it with aplomb.
The next queue (Q4) is to go through perhaps the slowest security check ever. There appeared to be two sides but in the end it was just one. They were scanning a little girl in a tiny summer dress as if they were sure that she was hiding some offensive weapon. Perhaps checking their list of 7 year old terrorists.
Eventually I got through with far less fuss than the little child had. Since I had allowed three hours for this I now had two hours before the flight boarded. I was glad to have that whole thing out of the way and got in the queue for coffee (Q5).
At the gate Sky Priority people queued first then everyone else queued to pass through the barrier. Again the self scanning slowed everyone down. As (Q6) got through we walked to the aircraft. It’s fascinating to watch the faces of people who had bought the official sized cabin bag when it won’t fit in the overhead locker without using brute force. No one can move until the people ahead have finally taken their seats. (Q7)
A feeling of satisfaction that the howling baby is at least two rows away and people are getting settled. We sat and waited for the aircraft to move. It didn’t. An announcement that no one knows why we’re not moving.
The captain made several announcements about how little he knew about the situation. Some sort of security issue. He announced that no planes were taking off. A rumour of some kind of explosive device or a piece of unaccompanied baggage had been loaded.
After another hour he announced that we would not like it but we’d have to disembark with all belongings and re check-in. This was in the end a poor translation as we had to go through security again, but not check-in. That was a good thing as the glued tortoise was probably still at the desk.
It took as long to get off as it did to get on as the wedged-in cabin bags proved just as awkward to get out.(Q8)
Back in the terminal it was chaos. Every plane had disembarked and no attempt had been made to usher people through plane by plane so around 1000 people are now outside security again. A board said that about 8 flights should use fast-track; remember the single gate?
An announcement was made that cause applause and ironic cheers but that drowned out the English version. It turned out to be advice to stay 1.5 metres apart. We were 1.5 cm apart. Police came and started ushering people, including myself out of the terminal. Most didn’t go because there was no way out. It was the departures area.
I went back in and found myself at the back of the vast throng (Q9) although it’s a bit more of a rabble than a queue.
It took hours to get through the little gate although my scan worked perfectly; practice makes perfect. Q9 was to get scanned again and get through the security check, I noticed that my connection from Amsterdam to Leeds would now be boarding.
Back to the boarding gate (Q10). The Captain was there telling us that we couldn’t leave until all of the passengers with luggage checked-in had managed to fight their way through the crowds.
Hilariously, they boarded the lucky Sky Priority customers first then everyone else.(Q11)
Now, you’d think that having practised putting the *** bag in the same *** overhead locker, they’d now manage it better or quicker. Nope! (Q12).
Back on board, we were told that information about transfers and mitigation would be given 20 minutes before landing in Amsterdam. There was a later flight to Leeds that with luck, I could get. In the end we took so long to get away that all transfers were missed. KLM reps would meet us and guide us through the next part of the (ordeal) journey.
At Amsterdam the two reps (standing together so that they couldn’t deal with more than one person at a time)sent us to a self check in machine to print out transfer boarding cards. Afterwards I asked if baggage would be transferred to the Leeds plane and was told it would and dismissively sent towards a bus rank for hotel transfer.
There were many buses and many hotels so I followed some passengers I recognised.
The bus took us to a hotel. It wasn’t the right one then I walked next door to the correct one. I was asked for a voucher. I had checked the website and all the information and no voucher could be found. The guy in the queue(Q13 unlucky) had found information as he was with Air France. I couldn’t find any way to find or print a voucher. No voucher, no room.
There were many hotels. Booking.com showed one nearby at 95 euros and I walked around to find it.The guys behind the desk seemed to sense that I might have had a tough day. They organised a taxi for me for 6:00am to be back in the airport three hours before my flight.
The basic room felt really lonely after the wonderful, friendly atmosphere of Marktoberdorf. I had no luggage so basic things like toothbrushes, razors and wine were unavailable. I asked the four guys what there was nearby restaurant wise. “Oh man” they said “Ya day jus gat worse” It was McDonalds or nothing.
Back at the hotel I set the alarm for 5:15am and went to bed. There was football on the TV and my team had lost their first game of the season.
At 3:30 am a very loud noise woke me. I first wondered how my phone had done this but no, it was the fire alarm.
Voices outside confirmed that people were up. It went off three times. I heard them say that someone had burned a pizza in the microwave at reception. It didn’t occur to me how bad pizza is if you microwave it and yet it’s worse if you actually set fire to it. So I was really wakened by poor culinary skills.
I had gotten up early to clean teeth and generally prepare for the flight home but there was nothing to do so I headed in the taxi for the airport.
There was no need to check in so I headed straight for the security area. Q14 was orderly but huge and it took a long time to get through but I had allowed plenty of time. There was a queue for passport checks(Q15) and I could use the automatic digital passport checking machines. The machine informed me that due to Brexit, I would then have to queue (q16)to get my passport stamped, the first stamp in my passport ever.
In the main area there were coffee places and breakfast bars but the queues were too long. I found a little kiosk on the way to the gate.
At the gate there was a queue(17) but in the end they boarded everyone by priority which was marked on their boarding pass. The propriety people had saved themselves at least 2 minutes of standing there.
The flight was really full and overhead locker wrestling was the order of the day. When I finally sat down it was now 25 hours since I’d left the haven of Marktoberdorf.
It took off largely on time and apart from the giant suchi takeaway that the guy next to me ate throughout the flight and the howling baby nearby I only had to worry about the potential chaos of Leeds/Bradford airport.
Q18 was amazingly quick and after a wait for the suitcase I was back. My friends who came to the concert had driven home to Sheffield with my suit etc. They had an overnight stop and still reached home before me.
Still, it could have been worse………………………………………….