Flying Ordeal Leads To Breakdown

November 10, 2007

in Food & Drink Stories

I was returning from Rome to Arizona in July of 2007. I chose Lufthansa because I had flown them many times before, and they’re one of the most consistently good airlines I’ve flown. I flew a connecting flight from Rome to Frankfurt at 8:30 am. I got to the airport at 5:00 am. The computers were down and the airport was full of people, causing the woman in front of me to comment, “The mother of the stupid people is always pregnant.” It took me three hours to get through that line. Although it was a morning flight, and they were serving breakfast, the stewardess thought it necessary to open a bottle of wine, which she spilled down my shoulders. This was a full-sized bottle of wine, and the flight crew was mysteriously lacking any sort of toweling. So when I got to Frankfurt, I already smelled like a bar.

My smell, however, was not a problem, because on my trans-Atlantic flight I was seated in the midst of a Russian tour group who appeared to have been enjoying the free drinks since they left Moscow. I should mention at this point that I speak five languages, and was unable to communicate with the drunk Russians to my left and right.

It turns out that United was running the trans-Atlantic leg of my flight, not Lufthansa. The plane they put us on was truly ancient. My seat was broken, the TVs were broken, and there was something wrong with the engine, so we sat on the tarmac on a particularly hot day in July in Frankfurt for two hours. The plane was so old that they couldn’t turn on the AC. For two hours I knew what it felt like to be a Thanksgiving turkey. When the flight got up in the air, the on-board meal (the only one for a ten hour flight) was one of those little pre-packaged bun sandwiches you used to get on cross-country flights. Also, they were charging for alcohol, which made the Russians angry (I think).

Because of my delay in Frankfurt, I missed my connecting flight and had to be re-routed to Las Vegas. Here I am after 14 hours of flying time, I smell like a bar, my back hurts from sitting in a broken chair for 11 hours, and I’m stuck in the Las Vegas airport for three hours, which is over stimulating on a good day. Needless to say, when I finally touched down in Phoenix and found out that they had lost my luggage, I broke down.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan February 3, 2009 at 12:34 am

I got on here annoyed about a few of my own experiences, but you brightened me up. You're a great story teller. Thanks for adding humor. I do feel your pain.


alex April 2, 2009 at 9:26 am

Yes, you need to be cautious when booking Lufthansa to Frankfurt from US (SFO) UAL flies the SFO-FRA portion and vice versa and the Lufthansa Frankfurt to Rome. Last time I did that SFO-FRA on United was a surprisingly excellent flight and service. Yes, their plane seem to be worked hard in comparison to Lufthansa. I booked Lufthansa for the same reason as you and got darned United!


MJ April 3, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Erm…is Russian actually one of those 5 languages?


Paul April 8, 2009 at 9:34 am

i took a united flight to london from lax. i was expecting two full meals on this 12 hr flight…well the 1st meal was some kind of small tv dinner like. 6 hrs later so many people were still hungary, we all kept going to the back of the plane grabbing candies that they have provided with water and juice. wow, i couldnt believe it. 2 hrs before landing, they served this little bun with cheese in it. boy was i still hungary when i got off. flying home on lauthsana – i was full when i got off the plane


Poco April 10, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Why are Russians always drunk? I live in an immigrant neighborhood and my Russian neighbors are always drunk, no matter what time of day.


John April 22, 2009 at 12:23 am

@Poco, since all the smart Russians died in Kolyma and education wasn't very popular in Russia up till the end of the Sovjet union.


Anon April 25, 2009 at 9:54 pm

I had a very similar experience with Lufthansa the computers breaking down before an early morning flight. I was flying home from Madrid into Portland and stood in line for 3 hours starting at 3:30 am until they worked. Throughout that time, we had no idea why we were going nowhere in line until almost 6 when our flight was to leave at 6:30. It was absolutely ridiculous!


Hawaiian October 29, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Why do people expect the airlines to feed you? When they do, what do you do? Complain! Why not take complete control of this aspect of your travel plans and pack your own meal, with stuff you actually enjoy?

For me, a small wedge of good cheese, some imported Prosciutto, grapes and crackers or bread would be better than any meal I could get on a flight. Spend the $15 to $20 and pack a gourmet snack that you know will be satisfying for you. Combine this with a nice glass of wine or a cold beer and you no longer have anything to gripe about!


Kyle April 2, 2011 at 2:59 am

The security takes the beer and wine off you


Mark December 2, 2009 at 8:36 am

Hawaiian, the reason they expect airlines to feed them, is because perhaps they are business people who were performing business, and staying in a hotel which did not have an in house supermarket. Perhaps they left their hotel at 5am, when the supermarket was shut. Perhaps they weren't any where near a supermarket during any part of their trip.

Dude, airlines have gotten rid of food in order to price match competitors, not because it's an unnecessary frill. Trips over 3 hours should have food always available for fee or free.

Get over it, or get on the way to diabetes type II – your choice.


Hawaiian January 12, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Sorry Mark… But I can't agree with your thought process.

1. If hotels provide you with a bed, bath and toilet… Should they also provide you with a free meal?

2. if a rental car is a means of paid transportation… Should they also provide free fuel?

If an airline provides you a seat, access to a restroom and (hopefully) reliable baggage service from point A to point B… Why on earth would you expect them to feed you (something that tastes good) for free?

I'm looking at all of your "perhaps" scenarios and they are pretty far fetched and weak. I'm an Executive Platinum on American Airlines who flies all over the world, and I've never once been put into a situation where I couldn't purchase food prior to my flight. Even when I fly first or business, I always pick up an antipasto platter to enjoy with a (plastic) glass of airline wine!

It's now 2010 and if you are still bitching about the quality of or lack of on-board airline food… It's your own damn fault!


Mick January 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Paul, I know what you mean about the lack of edible food on long flights now. Last time I flew Qantas (Business Class), the usual dinner service on the LAX – SYD route was replaced by a "snack". Reason for the substitute (according to Qantas)? It's because "our customers tell us now that they prefer lighter meals", which is absolute bullcrap.


Demotage January 12, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Out of college, money spent

See no future, pay no rent

All the money's gone, nowhere to go

Any jobber got the sack

Monday morning, turning back

Yellow lorry slow, nowhere to go

But oh, that magic feeling, nowhere to go


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