And only our luggage got lost
In the end, the third flight was the charm.
After confirming – then de-confirming them on a flight to Amsterdam – KLM accepted our dogs on a flight that would leave Atlanta on Friday two hours after ours.
These plans held and we all took off over the Atlantic on our multi-route journey to re-unite in Berlin.
The dogs flew from Atlanta to Schipol in Amsterdam, while the kids and I flew into Charles de Gaulle in Paris.
It didn’t hit us until we saw the lines in the terminal in Paris. We picked the absolute worst time to move to Europe.
Airports and airlines laid off tens of thousands of workers during the height of the pandemic and many of them are reluctant to come back to their old jobs, many of which offered low pay and long hours. Recruiting and training new staff, particularly pilots and airport security staff, can take time and many positions are unlikely to be filled in time for peak summer travel.Hold On to Your Hats (and Bags) – Travelers to Europe Face Chaos. New York Times. June 14, 2022.
We had planned a four-hour layover to allow for any delay getting out of the U.S. and arrived to find our flight postponed by another hour. And we weren’t the only ones. Terminal F at CDG started to resemble that line in the Eagles’ Hotel California – plenty of people checking in, not many could leave.
Passengers streamed in to wait at the gates, very few departures were announced. I had planned for us to take advantage of one of the airport lounges or the vintage game arcade area to pass the time. But both would have required another trip through the understaffed security checkpoints – and no one wanted that.
Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, der Mann had completed his eight-hour train journey and made contact with the driver for the animal transport company in the Netherlands. They set up a time to meet at a Starbucks outside the airport terminal after Abe and Pinky cleared customs.
Back at CDG, after five hours in a crowded glass-topped terminal, with outside summer temperatures in the 90sF, we finally boarded our connecting flight to BER. In under two hours, we would be in Berlin!
My sister-in-law, who lives in Bremen, had arranged to meet us at the airport while DM traveled to get the dogs.
We take off and all is well until 30 minutes into the flight when the pilot makes an announcement there is a problem with the back-up cabin air system that requires a return to CDG.
We fly 30 minutes back to the airport and wait on the tarmac as Air France decides whether to try to fix our plane or put us on another one.
Fifteen minutes later, it is decided that we need a different plane and buses arrive to take us all back to the crowded, hot terminal.
Per instructions from our cabin crew, we “hurry” to the designated gate only to find no staff awaiting us – only disgruntled passengers of yet another delayed flight.
A gate attendant arrives to tell us to be patient and the plane would be there soon.
Half an hour later, the same attendant announces that the plane is there, but there is no ground crew to work it, so we must wait some more.
An hour later, about 8 p.m. local time, ground crew is assembled and we re-board. Three hours after we were originally supposed to touch down in Berlin, we leave Paris with fingers crossed.
During this time, der Mann has been texting me frequent updates from the Netherlands. He’s picked up the dogs at Starbucks, donating their travel crates to the transport agency, and gotten them leashed up and on the train to Amsterdam Central and then on regional trains back to Germany.
Fortunately, he booked a Flexpreis ticket that allowed them to take any available train and not just the one originally booked.
As we waited at CDG, the dogs got on their first train ever immediately following their first airplane ride ever. During our unexpected double layover, they traveled from Amsterdam to Hamm on regional rail transit and then onto ICE for the final leg.
The second flight from Paris to Berlin was uneventful and we land around 11 p.m. As it is late on a Saturday night, BER is pretty empty. We get to the baggage carousel to wait for our bags.
It was a short wait.
Within 15 minutes, all bags from our hastily rescheduled plane are distributed to passengers. Unfortunately, only a little more than half of the luggage made it. None of our three bags are there. In retrospect, it seems silly that I thought we could travel to Europe in the summer of 2022 and expect to check bags – but we did. Because we needed to bring months worth of clothes and belongings with us – and I didn’t want to lug heavy bags through two airports, we broke the cardinal rule of international air travel: Always put a change of clothes in your carry-on.
And it is Sunday in Germany. The day when everything is closed. We are there with the clothes on our backs.
I line up to report the bags missing and then we leave to meet my sister-in-law. By now, it is after midnight. We just miss the last FEX from the airport to Berlin Hauptbahnhof.
Checking text messages, we see that the ICE train with my husband and our dogs has just arrived as well. In a photo finish, they manage to get back to our temporary apartment in Mitte just 10 minutes before we do.
But at long last, we are all together – safe and sound.