Our attempt to make it out of Addis Ababa on Friday and to Atlanta by Saturday was foiled by mechanical problems. “It happens,” you say? Well, it sucks a whole lot more after you’ve been waiting with a sleeping kid on your lap for nearly 2 hours for a ticket agent to locate a booking she’s convinced doesn’t even exist, all while feeling criminal because the Ethiopian airlines employee guarding the only seats in the departure lobby keeps reminding you that his supervisor “will punish” him for allowing us to use the seating reserved only for ShebaMiles members.
We eventually boarded our 10:40pm flight at 2:00am.So much for making that connecting flight. And so much for sleeping on the plane. That same kid who fell asleep at 8:00p in the departure lobby is now wide awake. That said, there is probably no better time for this major inconvenience to occur than on Germany’s very capable watch. Over the next 2 days, I experienced for myself what people have been telling me for years about Germans. They’ve got a lot of things right — starting with the airplane food.
Best Airplane Food & Beverages. I’ve flown with a lot of airlines eaten a lot of airplane food. I continue to declare Lufthansa’s better than average. Even though they give you meals at intervals way too close together, I can never just say “no.” The table wine just as good as what is served at most restaurants. Another glass? Yes please.
Post-Flight Entertainment. Gone are the days of thinking a pair of wings will keep kids happy. Lufthansa’s selection featured puppets, colored pencils, a variety of full-color activity books, playing cards, a travel log, and more. Though the newly released Lego movie stayed in rotation during the flight, the new trinkets made the layover wait time fun.
Efficient Customer Service. The airline gave us 2 hotel rooms for the night where all meals were included and a voucher for 40 Euros to cover lunch at the airport. This is a pretty standard move. But I’ve never had the customer service be so quick to get the deal done. The agent pulled us out of the back of the line, asked us to take a seat, while she took our passports to the counter and arranged everything within 15 minutes. They even allowed me to make 2 calls to the U.S. from their phone to let someone know of our change of plans.
Above Average Airport Food. I would have never stuffed myself with the airplane baguettes had I known that a full artisinal bakery would bless my nose in Terminal 1. I’ve heard that it’s common for Germans to have fresh bread delivered to their homes daily. So clearly, it’s in high demand for a reason. We passed on the bread in favor of sushi, miso soup, and wakwame salad at Temaki Bar. Rarely does one get a chance to enjoy a healthy meal at an airport eatery where its business would thrive even without the captive audience. No trying to mask the flavor of aging fish with siracha and calling it “spicy tuna,” here. Temaki Bar is the real deal.
Lovely Botanical Gardens. Since we were in Frankfurt for just the day, we only had time to see one attraction. Germany is known for it’s beer; but taking the kids to a bar in pajamas seemed highly inappropriate. As would appearing with them in Moulin Rouge, which my daughter insisted we go to after picking up a brochure for the place in the hotel lobby. While a bar or a cabaret show would keep them more entertained than one of Frankfurt’s many many museums, we settled on the family friendly, Palmengarten. What’s not to enjoy when you have manicured gardens featuring 18,000 plant species, endless winding paths, bridges for crossing, conservatories filled with tropical gardens, deserts and roses, a playground, paddle boats, swans swimming among huge catfish, frankfurters, and Apfelwein?
Thoughtful Taxi Cabs. We chose a cab over the train to maximize our time sightseeing. As expected, the cab arrived clean and on time. As not expected, the cab had built in booster seats for the kids. I’ve never seen that before.
Unexpected Hotel Amenities. I looked forward to a shower after wearing the same clothes for 24 hours. I did not look forward to putting on those same clothes post-shower. Luckily the hotel had a self-serve laundry room and soap for its guests to use all complimentary. We passed the time wrapped in towels watching cartoons in German and surfing their free internet.
Well-Designed Hotel Rooms. We had a small room, but boy did they know how to pack in the essentials. Our bathroom was about 35 square feet. But with a shower head was adjustable for height (for the vertically-challenged) temperature, and water pressure. The wall mounted soap tripled as hand soap, face soap, and bath soap. So no environmentally unfriendly travel size bottles cluttered the sink and shower. The queen bed, which had two twin duvets, gave the illusion that you were not sharing a bed. With, bunk beds for the kids and a wardrobe that doubled as a mirror, it was tight, but amazingly comfortable.
Smart Airport Security. First of all, you’re allowed to keep on your shoes in this airport. Second of all, not only does Frankfurt have conveyor belts for the luggage bins (standard stuff), the bins themselves have a separate conveyor belt leading back to the front of the line. This allows the security personnel to focus on providing security rather than schlepping bins back to the front of the line. Work smarter, not harder.
Most of these “right things” are small things that made a difference in turning a travel experience that was going downhill fast into fond memories. Ich danke Ihnen!