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Lufthansa – never again

Finally, time for my next long journey. But the preparations have been anything but calm last week, thanks to the strike by Lufthansa cabin personnel and major problems with the train track just north of Stockholm-Arlanda Airport (unsurprisingly).

Lufthansa strike had already lasted six days and that my flight to Frankfurt in the morning was cancelled was 99% sure. Luckily, I had read about the strike and followed on internet and TV news right from day 1 and was therefore early on by double-book a flight ticket with another airline (before all other passengers did the same). Fully refundable of course in unlikely event the strike would be called off and the Lufthansa flight would departure after all. Only option available that suited the flight from Frankfurt to Fortaleza, Brazil, was with AirBerlin from Stockholm-Arlanda via Berlin. Unfortunately, with very short stop-over in Berlin. Well. What was I suppose do? Cancel the whole trip because of the strike by cabin staff at Lufthansa? Never!
And the train problematic then? Well, yesterday’s gear fault north of Arlanda had stopped all rail traffic to Arlanda and on to Stockholm and the passengers had to take replacement busses. Some long-distance trains had been canceled completely. But it purported to be fixed now… but you can’t trust that *sigh* So I had phoned near and dear one’s and guard myself having someone able to drive me by car to Arlanda with short notice in case of canceled train. Well, SJ… do I need to say more???

Today, during morning, I received the expected text-message that my Lufthansa flight was canceled and I could now focus on flying with AirBerlin instead. And the money spent on the flight with Lufthansa was going to be refunded, every penny. Finished packing my suitcases and went downstairs to wait for the train taxi. Hmm. The longer I stood there waiting the more I started thinking; “What if the taxi doesn’t show up?!” That was the next anxiety, a taxi no-show. But the taxi showed up in time and I could take a breather. The train was at the platform, but the cleaning staff wasn’t done yet so all passengers had to wait outside. Once aboard the train I could sit down at my seat in the quiet department. Little butterflies in my stomach though, because you never know with SJ. If something can go wrong - it will - and therefore it is best to take the train to Arlanda the night before your flight. But knocking on wood… the train arrived in Uppsala problem-free and rolled out from the platform towards Arlanda.
Suddenly the train braked quickly into a complete stop and it got completely silent. What the hell?! No, no, no. Not now… the train was so close to Arlanda that I could even walk, if necessarily. After a while the train driver announced there was “machine failure” and that he would try to restart the train. The train was left standing a while during restart. Eventually the train started to slowly roll again. It took about more 10 minutes until the train stopped at Arlanda C and I could ride the escalator up to Sky City. Went straight to Forex Bank and collected the preordered amount of Brazilian currency Real that waited for me there. The scent of brand-new bills and holding wrinkle-free money felt luxurious. You also know that they are non-counterfeit money when withdrawn from the bank brand new. Then I took my suitcases one floor up and bought a Chicken McWrap. Looked and found bus stop no. 7 for transfer to Best Western Hotel in Arlanda Hotellby. My bus transfer back to Arlanda was leaving at 5am tomorrow morning so I had to get into bed as soon as possible.

So, what have I learned from all this? Well, will avoid Lufthansa as much as possible in the future. Only this year Lufthansa has gone on strike several times, and I’ve been affected twice directly or indirectly by that. So sorry Lufthansa…

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged traveling Comments (0)

Are you superstitious?


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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 even had left the gate, I had gotten a glass of Champagne and that was only the beginning of all service included in Business Class.

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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.

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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.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged traveling Comments (0)

Traveling south


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Could spoil myself with a sleep-in, since this day was dedicated to traveling and transfer myself, i.e. no guided tours today. No news about my bag. Made a few attempts to call both Baggage Express and Frankfurt Airport, but without results. In pure anger I packed down my things and checked out from Hotel Go Inn Manaus. Had about 1 ½ hours before my transfer to the airport would arrive and pick me up, so I had time to write an email or two in anger to AirBerlin so I at least get a response. The transfer showed up at 12.30pm and he spoke well English. He looked a little surprised at me and wondered: “Only one bag?” So, I had to tell the whole story again how my bag got stuck in Berlin. During the ride to the Airport he called Peter (if you remember, the driver during my first transfer here in Brazil a couple of days ago). Peter got as upset – as I already was – and promised to call Germany himself to speed up my baggage delivery. That felt good, since his native language was German.

Once at Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes – Manaus International Airport, check-in went efficiently since I only had my hand luggage. Even though the guy at the counter friendly asked if I wanted to check-in the bag, I said no. I was not going to check in the only baggage I had, so it also could get lost – hell no! I held hard onto my bag and had constant vision of it through Security Check. Then it was time with my poor Portuguese to try and get some food. It went okay, as long as they speak slowly you can figure out what they mean. They seem to like buffets here in Brazil; you take how much you want and then pay at the register. Had time to eat in peace before boarding started for the flight to São Paulo Guarulhos International Airport, also known as Governador Andre Franco Montoro International Airport. Yes, why have only one name, when you can have two? The flight departed at 3.12pm local time and now a 4-hour flight to São Paulo with TAM Airlines was ahead. The aircraft was a Boeing 767 with 2+3+2 seating with TV-monitors in the seat in front of you, with various entertaining. I don’t know if it was due to the movies that I watched, or what, but these hours just flew by. And during these hours I had transferred one time zone, but 2 hours in time difference. Oh, why make it so complicated and let some states (within a time zone) have summer time and not all. Why simple, when it can be difficult?

When the plane approached the runway, it had gotten pitch black outside and I sat far away from any window, so I couldn’t see when the plane took ground. One reason why I want to have window seat when flying. Now you had no idea whether we would land at an airport, in the ocean or straight towards a rock face. Uncomfortable feeling. Though there are so many smart systems that many aircrafts, with help by autopilot, can land themselves. Thanks to ILSInstrument Landing System – airplanes can land in the dark and in poor visibilities at runways that otherwise only are used during great visibilities and day light.

Anyhow, landed at 9.15pm local time at São Paulo Guarulhos International Airport, busiest airport in Brazil. Then you might expect the airport to be well developed, that you board your flight from the gate, that it is well-signed and big in general. But no. The aircraft I arrived in (Boeing 767) is yet a large plane and you would probably expect to disembark at a gate. No. We had to disembark and embark a bus to the terminal. There it was crowded and full of people in a more or less hurry. To then come as a single tourist trying to find the next gate didn’t feel quite okay. Looked frantically for a monitor to see which gate to go to. When I finally found one, the next problem occurred… to find the gate. The signs were completely vanished, or they were very small, because I saw none. There was no point in asking a random person due to the poor odds that person spoke any English. But after wandering around for a few minutes I realized I need to ask someone. To be sure being able to ask in English I went to a check-in counter. Haa!! It turned out I was on the wrong floor. Hmm. And where was that sign posted saying I had to go up a floor??? Well then. Took the escalator upstairs and from there I could orient myself to the right gate. Well, gate and gate… it was the smallest waiting hall I’ve ever seen, and so crowded. It was warm and loudly and you really had to pay attention to the TV-monitors because you couldn’t hear the announcements made. From here we embarked a bus to the aircraft, an Airbus 319, with 3+3 seating.

When the plane was basically full, one last passenger had to embark. An elderly man with plastered feet, had to be bussed onboard with some kind of wheel chair. When he switched from the wheel chair to his seat he started puking in the isle. Wonderful! Just infect the rest of us. So, they had to call in the cleaning staff to wipe and clean. When the plane finally taxed out (just after 11.10pm) I heard a child behind me having a running nose. That’s just perfect! If I don’t get sick now… And the child coughed and sniffled all the way from São Paulo to Foz do Iguaçu, a flight for about 2 hours.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged traveling Comments (0)

Suddenly it happens


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Woke up before the cell phone alarm sounded. The hotel staff had not called me during the night, so my bag had not arrived yet. What now? Tiptoed away to the reception and asked yet again asked about my bag. But no. The hotel staff tried their best to get in contact with TAM Airlines by phone, but without result. It was morning and also Saturday. What were the odds of get in contact with that small airport a day like this? Aaah!! Now I was ready to give up. If I didn’t receive my bag today, they could just as well send it straight back to Sweden, so I didn’t have to worry for the rest of my trip. I miserably walked back to my hotel room and packed my things. Checked out from Hotel Viale Cataratas and had a few hours now to kill before Joe came and drove me to Foz do Iguaçu/Cataratas International Airport.

Sat down on a soft and comfortable couch in the hotel lobby and had just sunk into my own little world when one of the hotel staff calls for me. Barely made it up from the couch and walked up to her. Finally, great news! Suddenly it happened! TAM Airlines themselves had called the hotel and announce that they now had my bag delivered by courier. For real? With careful optimism I returned to the couch and it felt really good now – almost too good. Time wise, it felt like 3 weeks from the great news until the man stepped into the hotel with my bag. A total happiness arose the very second I spotted my bag – like a child waiting for presents on Christmas Day.

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There it was. My bag! Weird you can be so happy about getting your bag back. But hey? No ID inspection??? Seriously? In other words, he could have delivered my bag to the very next person?! But right then I could care less.

Joe arrived at 12.45pm to drive me to Foz do Iguaçu/Cataratas International Airport. The transfer took about 20 minutes and just inside the departure terminal it hit me – I must check in my luggage again after just hours in my possession again. Walked up to the check-in counter, took a deep breath and handed over the bag. Oh well. Dear bag. See you in Rio then? As mentioned earlier, Foz do Iguaçu/Cataratas International Airport is a rather small airport – despite the international status. There weren’t many gates to choose from, even fewer restaurants to eat at. The airplane departed just before 4pm and it took about 1 ½ hours to reach Galeão International Airport in northern Rio de Janeiro. The rain pattered against the aircraft and it was a gray and overcast weather. Got pretty fast from the gate to the baggage belt to pick up my bag. Bag after bag came on out the belt, but my bag never seemed to show up. Minutes ticked away and also my pulse, that after a while most surely was at 160 bpm. What the hell! I had time for many thoughts and felt the devil’s horn started to grow out on my forehead. But eventually my bag showed up, as one of the very last bags out on the belt! Whew!

In the arrival hall, I met up with my local guide Renato. We left the rain over the airport and the slum districts (favelas) in the northern Rio de Janeiro and traveled through one of all car tunnels towards the southern and wealthier part of Rio. The weather somewhat eased up the more south we got and caught a glimpse of both Sugar Loaf and Christ the Redeemer. The vast contrast between the favelas as we passed in the north to the luxury hotels that lined up along Copacabana Beach in the south was overwhelming. Renato drove an extra turn in the neighborhood and pointed out great restaurants and local stores so I could easily orient myself before dropping me off at my hotel, Hotel Windsor Martinique Copacabana. Definitely the most elegant hotel so far during this trip. I had barely gotten out of the care before a bell boy grabbed my bags and took them inside the hotel lobby. Check-in went fast and then a bell boy followed me up to my room with my bags. Perhaps not the biggest room in the world, but I wasn’t here for the hotel.

A local store was situated just around the corner from the hotel where you could buy both water and snacks to a much cheaper price than from the hotel room mini bar. Close to eight o’clock in the evening I went to a Steak House that Renato had recommended. There was a buffet, just as several other restaurants I had visited here in Brazil. Take whatever you want, how much you want and pay the weight at the counter. Super smooth! Typical Brazilian food is meat, fish, chicken, rice and pasta in all cooked forms. Stews, fried, steamed, grilled – you name it.

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Then had time to visit a local market along Copacabana Beach, organized during weekends. Here you could buy typical souvenirs, clothes, snacks etcetera.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged cities rio_de_janeiro traveling copacabana_beach Comments (0)

North to Fortaleza


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Woke up to my last day here in Rio de Janeiro. Thanks to the low season I was able to keep my room until 2pm before I needed to check out. In other words, I got enough time to pack my bag without stress. Renato came and picked me up at 2.30pm. It was heavy traffic and we got stuck in long queues. And that so even though Renato drove on roads with the least amount of traffic, it took almost an hour to get from Copacabana in southern Rio de Janeiro to Galeão International Airport in the northern part of town. We passed yet again the poor parts of Rio and several favelas along the way and you couldn’t help yourself thinking about whether it’s healthy to live like that. When at the airport I received clear instructions from Renato how to find the TAM Airlines check-in desks since he needed to meet up his next guest’s arrival. “No problems”, said I and found pretty easily to TAM Airlines. Unfortunately, the queues were long and there weren’t many people behind the desks serving us costumers. I had to wait almost 30 minutes before it was my turn to check in but when it finally was my turn it went fast and smooth. The big baggage weighted 18 kg and they didn’t even care about my backpack. Weird! In Foz do Iguaçu they were super strictly about the carry-on, which had a 5 kg limit, but now they didn’t even check. And before anyone asks, yes it was TAM Airlines. However, I got a little surprised when they asked me about my closest relatives in case of emergency… uuuuhmm, okay!? So, you do expect something to happen, or??? That was at least the first thought that popped up in my head. Because that’s the first time I ever got that question asked while traveling. And during this trip it’s my 5th domestic flight with TAM Airlines, and I get that question just now?!

Boarding took time due to some passengers who took the liberty to it on other seats than they were supposed to according to their flight tickets. When these persons finally got in their right seat the flight was 25 minutes delayed. Sigh! When the airplane had been pushed out and taxed to the runway it took off at 5.30pm. After 3 hours of flight with a lot of turbulence in the air I landed at Pinto Martins – Fortaleza International Airport. Time was only 7.30pm here though, since I had changed time zone again. So chaotic and complicated with several time zones in one country and when some of them apply summer time and others don’t. I got my checked-in bag and quickly found my local guide Rodriguez and our driver.

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It was already dark here in Fortaleza and during my transfer to my hotel I wasn’t able to see much of the city. But I could feel how bad constructed the roads were, and if you never have been in the risk zone of whiplash injuries you definitely were that now! Eventually we arrived at my hotel Sonata de Iracema. Rodriguez helped me to check in and I got my room key. I took the elevator up and walked up to my door and unlocked. I was shocked to find a guy inside painting the ceiling. He looked as surprised as I was. He didn’t speak any English and I only some Portuguese. But I think he understood and phoned the reception. The hotel staff immediately came with a new card and apologized. So, I grabbed my bags and took the elevator even higher up to my “new” room. The room wasn’t well cleaned and had low standard. Since time had run late it felt most convenient to eat dinner in the hotel restaurant.

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Leaving Brazil


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Last day in Fortaleza during this trip and definitely last day in Brazil this time. It felt great yet sad to leave such nice but big country. The Brazilians are very nice people and even though they know English that well, I was never treated like an idiot for not knowing Portuguese. Before this trip I had studied a few good-to-know phrases and words, which made a different.

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At breakfast I asked at the hotel reception if it was okay for me to have the room a few hours more since Rodriguez was picking me up at 5pm for my transfer to the airport. It was not a problem. The climate here in Fortaleza was hot and humid and I knew that back home in Sweden there would be dark and cold upon arrival. So now I had to take advantage of the very last sunshine before my journey home. Today it was +33 °C in the shadow and you didn’t have to make an effort to feel exhausted.

After lunch I rested by the hotel pool, a mini siesta before time for shower and packing down the very last things before traveling home. And in the middle of all this the cleaning lady knocked on the door and wanted to clean. But what now? How was I supposed to explain to her that I was checking out later? I think she understood me eventually and moved on to the next door. Later during check-out, I received a hotel bill for R$700! I.e. €180 for the lunches and dinners I had ate in the hotel restaurant during two days. Felt very expensive! But the girl in the reception quickly realized that it was the wrong bill (maybe because I looked the very picture of bewilderment). She printed a new bill for R$170 (about €40) and that was more reasonable.

When Rodriguez with driver came to pick me up, he explained that we needed to drive on minor roads to avoid long car queues. As a tourist you trust whatever the locals say, they do know the city best. Rodriguez said it would take about 50 minutes to get to the airport, but I ogled the watch when we arrived at Pinto Martins – Fortaleza International Airport and it had only taken about 35 minutes. Anyway, got in line to the Business Class and could check in fast. Since Condor and SAS belongs to the same airline alliance, I could easily check in my bags all the way to Stockholm-Arlanda, which always is the smoothest thing to do and not re-check your bag everywhere. Even though it is an international airport it is small. And from what I’ve learned about airports here in Brazil you should really buy something to eat before you pass through security check, because after that there won’t be any food to buy or just easier meals like sandwiches or candy. This time I didn’t have to worry though since I was flying Business Class and over-fed with food, snacks and beverages.

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Boarding was supposed to start at 6pm according to the boarding card, i.e. 2 hours before departure. Well, wouldn’t think so! Since the aircraft hadn’t even landed at the airport at that time. We were able to board at 7.30pm and boarding was barely completed in time for departure at 8.06pm. But when the cabin crew had announced “boarding completed” the aircraft was still at the gate. After a while the pilot announced that we weren’t able to take off due to radar problems at the Airport. The pilot said it could take up to 2 hours. Ha, ha! So funny – not! Now all I wanted was to get home, not be stuck in an aircraft on the ground. But eventually, after half an hour the airplane was pushed out from the gate and taxed to the runway. Finally!

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Coming home


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Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean we entered new time zone and even a new day – Saturday. After a very turbulent flight oven the Atlantic we got served breakfast before the airplane landed at Frankfurt Airport. Due to the lack of sleep during the flight you walked around like a zombie and at the security check I forgot to take out some minor bottles with crème and stuff, which the security guard noticed right away and took my bag aside. So, you had to unpack everything and let them inspect everything. I mean, it wasn’t my intention to forget picking the items out of my bag. But there was no mercy and you almost got treated like a criminal who just robbed a store.

Next flight was with SAS and departed at 12.15pm. It wasn’t many passengers onboard. With a full-sized Boeing 737 and a 132-passenger capacity not even half of the seats were booked. So how could that be profitable? We arrived at Stockholm-Arlanda Airport 2 hours later and I had time to eat at McDonalds before taking the train back home to Dalarna, with time to look back on everything that had happened during this trip. All the amazing people and wonderful places I had experienced.

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