On our way home

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And we’re off

We were early off the ship on our way home, a 7:30 pick-up. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. When we booked our flights a few months before our visit to France, We flew Singapore airlines between Frankfurt and Brisbane, and Lufthansa between Singapore and Frankfurt and the two flights to and from France. Peter made sure the layovers between flights weren’t too long, roughly three hours, which is bearable. And he selected our seats both ways. Then about two weeks before we were due to fly, Lufthansa cancelled the flight from Marseilles to Frankfurt and we were forced to take a much earlier flight, so we’d be staying at Frankfurt airport for nine hours. Happy days.

We had expected, since we’d done our five days plus of covid isolation, that we’d be going on the coach with all the other passengers going to Marseilles. But the hotel manager (wisely) didn’t mix us with everyone else. We took a taxi (at Uniworld’s expense), zipping along the motorway for about an hour. We were glad we weren’t paying the fare – there wasn’t much change from €300.

We’d been told Marseilles was a “tiny, provincial airport” but I reckon it was busier than Brisbane domestic. We found what passed as the business lounge – an enclosed area on the first floor. We walked past it three times before we realised this was, in fact, the ‘lounge’. It resembled a Donga* for fly in-fly out workers. If you wanted the toilet you had to leave the lounge. We’d hoped to get some breakfast but the offerings were slim. Fortunately, it was a short wait before we went to the flight.

A lot of Frankfurt domestic traffic terminates at a hard stand; that is, a point on the tarmac where you climb down the stairs and board a bus which takes you to the terminal. So, here we were at one of my most unfavourite airports in the world. We found the business lounge and looked for a good spot to camp for nine hours. It’s beyond me why seats in places like this are always variations on boxes. No lumbar support, and the seat too long for short people. Yes, I’m whinging. That nine hours passed very slowly.

The women’s European Football Cup was on TV. There were at least six screens in this lounge but the football was shown on only one, despite the considerable crowd gathered there. We knew when the Germans scored an equaliser from the chorus of “JA!!!” from the watchers. We were pleased England won.

During our time in the lounge I scribbled some notes. Here it is, verbatim.

“We were supposed to have a three hour layover but LH changed the flight and we were stuck in FRA fucking airport for nine hours. We found the lounge but if it isn’t a noisy kindergarten it’s people talking hands-free on mobile phones. And don’t let’s talk about the “helpful” service people. LH will not be flown again!”

I’m sure it’s hard to travel with small children but quite a few parents simply let their offspring run riot. It’s a bit like going to a restaurant. Take your kids if you must, but they’re YOUR problem, not ours.

The hours dragged by, interspersed with a drink here, a nibble there. At last we were off to join the flight. One of the perks of paying for a business class fare is getting on first without having to queue (much). But the corridor to the departure gate had been blocked off. We had to present our documents (passport and boarding passes) to one of two desks. There was already a substantial queue that just got longer. Wasn’t this the stuff you did at the gate?

I think it was to check the vaccination status of anybody wanting to stay in Singapore. Perhaps they could have done two lines, one for people transiting Singapore and another for those terminating there. But I expect that was all too difficult.

Anyway, onwards and upwards.

Remember that cancelled flight from Marseilles? When that happened, we also lost all the seat selections which had been confirmed when we booked the flight – and now we could no longer select seats. Thank you, Lufthansa. When we asked why we were told “only business class passengers can select seats”. Hello? Didn’t we just pay business class fares? Maybe LH decided at the last moment to have two levels of business class. That was why Peter and I weren’t sitting together when we flew from Singapore to Frankfurt. We tried at the LH lounge to get the seating changed so we could sit together, but no dice. After we’d boarded, Peter asked the young man in the aisle seat beside him if he’d like a window seat. He agreed, so he got my seat and Peter and I could at least hold hands if we wanted to. Needless to say, I just wanted to go to sleep.

It was a pleasure to arrive at Singapore and its lounge. It’s a different atmosphere, with comfortable (sort of) seats, easy access to power outlets, great food, and staff with a sense of humour. Then it was the last leg home. I was looking forward to home. By the way, the seats we selected for the Singapore flights remained selected. Singapore is an excellent airline.

It was a great flight, with lovely food – and I got to watch Fantastic Beasts: the Secrets of Dumbledore before I went to sleep.

But there was one last bit of excitement.

Brisbane airport was fogged in. The captain made a few lazy circles over Moreton Bay and made one attempt at landing before he powered up and out. We diverted to Gold Coast airport for fuel. I imagine the captain assumed we passengers would realise we’d be going back to Brisbane – but so many people didn’t seem to understand. At least half of the people around us unbuckled and started collecting their belongings from the overhead lockers. Peter and I looked at each other. How did they think they’d get to Brisbane?

The captain came on and explained we were just here to refuel, then we’d fly back to Brisbane. Ours was not the only aircraft on the ground. We saw Emirates, Virgin, and Air New Zealand. Soon enough, we were on our way. The plane hardly got to height before it was going down again – it’s not a long way from the Gold Coast to Brisbane.

After going through customs and immigration very quickly, we went to pick up our car. We were home probably three hours later than we’d expected.

But we were home.

If you’re new to this journey and want to find other parts of the trip, go to France 2022. That page has all the posts.

  • a temporary, usually transportable, dwelling.

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