[Airport Adventures] Last Minute Upgrade to Bangkok

How I almost didn’t make it to Bangkok and ended up with an upgrade to business class…

and so the adventure begins

So the big day has finally come. I had my last day at work Friday, cleared my apartment during the weekend, said my goodbyes to Paris and all my dear friends and co-workers there, packed up my backpack and was finally ready to start my big trip. During the taxi ride to the airport, I had a bit of a stomach-ache due to all the excitement, but when it was finally my turn to check in my luggage, I couldn’t have felt more ready to leave. But there, the big shock: The flight to Moscow was overbooked and I was on standby. There was no other connection to Bangkok that day, and I was told I might needed to stay in Paris for another night.

I almost fainted when I heard these news. It usually wouldn’t have been such a big deal to start a vacation one day later, especially as you get financial compensation in these situations. But I was just so ready to go and really, really didn’t want to return to Paris. Luckily, the people working at the Air France counter felt with me and decided to do whatever it takes to get me on that plane.

What followed were numerous phonecalls, two out of the four agents behind the counter running back and forth (while there were about six other people hoping to make it on that flight), talking on their walkie talkies and checking stuff on their computers. I felt like in a thriller. Favourite quote: “We have to take the Miss! She’s not staying here!” (Non la miss, on la prend! On peut pas la laisser!) The suspense was on until the very last minute, as it was only thirty minutes before take-off when they finally told me: “Bon voyage, mademoiselle!”

I could have kissed them both, filled with joy and relief. Unfortunately, i didn’t really have time for that, as I had to make a sprint through security check and to my gate worthy of qualifying me for the Olympic games. Needless to say that my hungover from the night before was more than gone by then…

It wasn’t until I was boarding the plane that I realised that I had been upgraded to Business Class. Dressed in my oldest leggings, Chucks and a hoodie, I looked like a hobo who just ran a marathon, but in true gypset fashion was able to enjoy a last glass of Champagne while embarking on my big trip.

Everything went pretty smooth from there on: The food in business was extra nice, there were no major turbulecences and we arrived in Moscow on time. But oh my, did I forget how unfriendly Russians can be: From the immigration officer to security check to the stewaress who was waiting on my aisle: I had the impression they all hated me for not speaking Russian. But luckily, apart from Ludmilla, my grumpy stewardess, and the superiorly disgusting food on the plane, everything went pretty well. I even got to secure a whole front row for myself, meaning maximum space and comfort.

In-flight entertainment was pretty neat as well: I  first watched “The secret life of Walter Mitty” – what a perfect fairy tale to get me into an even bigger travel mood. But then, every movie featuring Arcade Fire on the soundtrack is a natural winner… I then went on to watch “The fault in our stars”. Big mistake! While I knew the film was going to  be sad,  I ended up crying like a baby in the end. How embarrasing!

But the most important thing is that both me and my suitcase arrived safely in Bangkok. I have already spent two amazing days (and nights…) in this crazy city (more on that later) and will head to Sri Lanka tomorrow evening. A big “merci” again to all the amazing people who work the premium counter of Air France at terminal 2E at Roissy :*

[Airport Adventures] Why I’ve never been to Mexico

How I ended up on (and survived a) 12 hour Greyhound ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles instead of hitting the beach in Mexico. 

After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I embarked on a monthlong trip to Vancouver, California and NYC with my friends Katha and Astrid. Between coasts, we decided to squeeze in some days at the beach in Mexico. When we turned up at SFO late at night, we were surprised to see that the check-in counter of Mexicana, which was supposed to bring us to our dream destination, was deserted. We soon found out that the airline went bankrupt literally two days before!!!

We were really sad that visibly we were not going to Mexico, but also didn’t know what else to do and everything at SFO was starting to shut down. So we stayed up all night trying to figure out a plan B. Considering we had already booked our hostel in NYC and also didn’t have a lot of money left, we decided to stay in California for a few more days. Well, it seems like the only hostel in the entire state of California that was accessible via public transport and was not fully booked this weekend was a shabby surfer spot in LA. Next obstacle: Once that was booked, we had to figure out how to get there. Flying was too expensive, so we booked ourselves onto the notorious Greyhound bus. Departure: 7am this morning. Duration: 12 hours.

We had taken a Greyhound before, going from LA to San Diego, and didn’t understand what all the fuss was about: The bus had AC, free Wifi, a movie was streaming and the bus was packed with backpackers like us. Well, this was not the case for the SF-LA track: We were packed in this old, shabby bus among mostly men who looked as if they had spent most of their lives befind bars, trashy women who though it was a good idea to change their babies’ diapers in the bus, instead of using the bathroom at the bus stop (we were on a 20 minute break then!!!), other people who travelled with big trash-bags filled with beach sandals, boxes and boxes full of grapes and clementines and so on. We stopped in what felt like every hillbilly town in the middle of nowhere and it was there that I realised that there is so much more to California than Hollywood Hills and Golden Gate Bridge.

Back then, we didn’t really have a good time. We were exhausted from a night spent at the airport and really had to squeeze together, as we picked up more and more spooky passengers on this seemingly endless ride. But in the end, it’s one of our favourite anecdotes of this trip and five years later, this story still makes us laugh.

[Airport Adventures] My Parisian Christmas Angel

I have quite a reputation among my friends for having bad airport karma: Whatever could go wrong at the airport, chances are it already happened to me. But whatever happens, somehow these stories always have a happy ending. So in the next weeks, I want to share my favourite airport stories with you. 

A few years ago, I wanted to fly home from Paris to Austria the Saturday before Christmas. Unfortunately, I went out the night before, didn’t hear my alarmclock and woke up at around the same time my plane was taking off the ground – sans moi. I wasn’t too worried and made my way to the airport anyways, knowing that a friend of mine had already missed a flight from Paris to Vienna before and ended up paying about 200€. Of course, paying 200€ for something so stupid absolutely sucks, but what can you do.

Well, turns out things are a bit different on Saturday before Christmas: As I was told by this really rude, old man at the Austrian Airlines counter at CDG, I would have needed to pay 600€ for a one way ticket to Vienna. Considering I was a student back then, I absolutely didn’t have that kind of money. So I did what I always do when I am really frustrated about a situation I can not change: I cried. I sat down on a bench, trying to figure out what to do, when a young lady approached me and asked what was going on. I quickly explained to her and a second later she offered to pay for my flight! Missing my flight due to too much partying was my own fault, so there was no way I could accept this – as tempting as it was! She insisted and told me that she had a like a billion Air France miles, and that we could check if those were transferable. They were, and so I ended up with a free flight home the next morning, even though I did insist on paying the airport taxes myself.

Everything in my head was still kind of blurry due to all those emotions and the speed at which all of this happened, and I didn’t even get around to really thank this wonderful French lady before she had to run and catch her flight to Athens. So the next morning, when I explained my story to the people at the Air France counter, they agreed to at least give me her phone number and I did call her to thank her properly.

I still don’t know her name, but, kind stranger, if you ever read this: Thank you so much!! I will be forever grateful!!