13.11.2015 - 13.11.2015
Okay, now all about Friday 13th… the belief in this specific day being bad luck is ancient. The old mathematicians got annoyed about number 13 being indivisible and it was disciple number 13 who betrayed Jesus contributes strongly. But how has Friday the 13th affected air traffic? A quick look-back in time and you’ll soon find a dark day in flight history. The year was 1972, Friday 13th October. A small plane from Uruguay, with members of a rugby team on their way to Chile for a game, crashed into the Andes and more than half of the passengers were killed. The very same day a plane crashed during landing in Moscow and all of the 176 passengers died. But I don’t really believe that this day would be more of a bad luck than other days and dared to book flight tickets for Friday the 13th. Or maybe that’s why the tickets were extra cheap? But yet some aircraft manufacturers seem to be superstitious since they exclude row 13 in their planes… think about that next time you board an aircraft, check if row 13 exists.
So, up early in the morning to have time for breakfast and get onto the bus transfer back to Arlanda at 5am. True to one’s usual habit I jumped off at terminal 5, went inside the terminal and had a look at the TV monitor in front of me. Quickly found the cancelled Lufthansa flight clearly marked with Cancelled. The AirBerlin flight would departure at 6.30am, thus 5 minutes earlier than the Lufthansa flight. But no matter how I looked at the TV monitor, I couldn’t find the AirBerlin flight. Is this a joke, or? Did I book the wrong date? Got a small panic but tried to keep calm. Discretely picked up my confirmation papers and glanced through it. No, the date and time were accurate. Walked further along the terminal to another TV monitor and realized I was in the wrong terminal! Moron! Amid all fuss I managed to miss that small detail about AirBerlin operating from terminal 2. Such a relief. After a brisk walk for 15 minutes I arrived in terminal 2. Found the check-in counters for AirBerlin way back in a corner, next to terminal 3 (the terminal God forgot – since there are only two gates there). I had splurged with Business Class, so I could use the Priority Lane at check-in as well at the Security Check. So convenient! So I had time for a few minutes in Business Lounge prior boarding the flight to Berlin – despite the terminal mix-up.
I’m taking the opportunity to throw in some information regarding development of the air traffic safety which pilots, air traffic controllers and aircraft themselves utilize. All aircrafts fly in so called air corridors in different altitude, direction and speed. The air corridors are monitored by air traffic controllers in towers on the ground handling all air traffic in their air space. If the air traffic controller would fail (despite advanced radar technology) to guide aircrafts on safe distance from each other, TCAS (Traffic Control Avoiding System) exists. The system is installed on every commercial aircraft since 1993 and help avoiding air collision that would occur due to human factor. TCAS consists of transponders on the aircrafts which signals to each other within a 64 km radius and keep track of altitude and speed of the planes. When the system detects two aircrafts on collision course it informs both pilots on the planes and choose which plane to climb up respectively descend. So one pilot gets the vocal message: “Traffic! Traffic! Climb up!”,while the other pilot gets: “Traffic! Traffic! Descend!”
Shouldn’t the pilots themselves see if they are on collision course with another aircraft through the windows? No way. The cruising speed for airplanes is about 1000 km/h, which means the oncoming plane also whiz at 1000 km/h. So if a pilot is lucky and early enough to see a plane on collision course, the pilot has about 6 seconds to react and make a maneuver before impact… which is impossible.
After 1 hour and 30 minutes it was time for landing at Berlin-Tegel Airport. But the pilot had announced he couldn’t bring the plane down due to bad sight. Perfect! Just what I needed when having a short connection flight. The aircraft circulated a few laps before it finally was cleared for landing. And as always when you’re super stressed, it felt like an eternity from touch-down until reaching the gate. Did indeed sit on first row and disembarked fast, but that didn’t help since all passengers had to embark a bus for transfer to the terminal. AAAH!!! The bus drove in snail’s pace it seemed! And as soon I disembarked the bus I rushed through the terminal. Gate was still open… how lucky! I got on the plane with a few minutes to spare. Puh! Even though I got onto the plane, it turned out upon arrival at Frankfurt Airport an hour later that my checked-in bag did not make the change in Berlin. Shit! That was almost expected though. Reported my bag missing and the very same second I stood there it was confirmed in their computer system my bag was still in Berlin. So really – my bag was never lost. It just missed the flight change. Lucky though I’m used to traveling and packed some clothes in the carry-on bag and toothbrush and other necessary things you can’t do without. But had it not been for the Lufthansa strike (so I had to fly with AirBerlin via Berlin to Frankfurt), I had been able to check in my bag all the way from Stockholm-Arlanda to Fortaleza, Brazil… without unnecessary stop in Berlin… oh, well…
So I went on a little disappointed to the check-in counters for Condor, the airline taking me to Fortaleza, Brazil. The queue to Business Class winded long and it didn’t seem to move at all in front of me. Lucky me for understanding German. Cause I was attentively listening when the guys before me started to talk to the lady behind the counter that they were traveling to Fortaleza (same as me) and that it wasn’t much time left for check-in. The guys were asked to go to the Premium Class counter instead. So I joined and followed. Finally got my boarding pass and rushed to Security Check. Thanks to Business Class I had access to Priority Lane and got fast to the gate. Soon thereafter boarding started.
The aircraft was a Boeing 777, with Business Class in front. In larger aircrafts there are usually a separate entrée to Business Class, but not in this one, which meant all people in Premium and Economy Class had to pass through Business Class. Seemed like it would never end embarking passengers but eventually boarding was completed. Before the plane had left the gate I had gotten a glass of Champagne and that was only the beginning of all service included in Business Class.
As soon as the plane was airborne the serving started with snacks, meals and beverages non-stop. You did not have to be hungry that was for sure. Starters, main courses and desserts were served on white pressed tablecloths. TV entertainment with movies and so on onboard was of course included in Business Class (neither in Premium nor Economy though, who had to pay extra for that). I was mighty impressed that the menu language was selectable in Swedish. Big plus for that! The reason for choosing Business Class on long-haul flights is pretty obvious. Not only for all food and beverages included but also for the possibility to stretch your legs. On this aircraft the seat was adjustable to 180° recumbent position, which I took advantage of of course.
The plane landed after 9 hours and 30 minutes on Pinto Martins – Fortaleza International Airport, 6.10pm local Brazilian time. Many people have asked me how many hours in difference there is between Sweden and Brazil. It depends entirely on where you are and when during the year. Because Brazil consists of three different time zones; each time zone consists of different states and some of those states use summer time while others don’t – within the same time zone. So why make it simple when it can be difficult? But in general I would say between 2-4 hours after Swedish time this time of year.
The heat hit me when I disembarked the plane and it felt like hitting a wall. After being in a well air-conditioned aircraft for hours, I was met by +27 °C air with about 95% humidity. But after a while when acclimatized I felt better. But I hadn’t reached my final destination yet. Now I had to wait for a 2 hour domestic flight with TAM Airlines to Manaus, before I could check in at the hotel and get a few hours of sleep.