not an auspicious return to Asia

Getting back to Asia from the US was a bit rocky, and after the first two days on the ground it seemed maybe we got off on the wrong foot.

Here’s how our trip from Kansas City to Delhi was supposed to go:

  • drive to the Kansas City airport in our rental car, drop it off, and check our bags
  • fly to Chicago on United, then have a three hour layover
  • fly to Newark on United, then have another layover
  • fly to Delhi on United, a long flight of 13 hours
  • land in New Delhi about 9:30pm Sunday night, get our bags, clear customs
  • find the driver from our hotel waiting to take us to the hotel by around 11pm

I expected our nerves would be frazzled due to not sleeping very well and being on the road so long, so I made sure a car would be there to pick us up.

And a car was there at the airport, but here’s how the journey really went.

Saturday morning, there was freezing rain in Kansas City. After saying our farewells to Dorothy and loading everything into the car, we went through the McDonald’s drive through to get some breakfast. Traffic was light to medium most of the way, but moving a bit slower than normal due to potential ice on the roads.

It wasn’t an issue until we got about half way to the airport. But then, two cars in front of us, a driver spun out as we were going over a bridge in the middle lane of three. Her car spun 90 degrees on the ice, rammed into the median on the left, and kept spinning across three lanes of traffic. She finally came to a stop after about 270 degrees, on the right shoulder. All the cars behind her calmly slowed, and nobody else lost control, but our car and two others were just a second or two from participating in a multi-car collision on this bridge.

After that, I drove even more slowly and carefully the rest of the way. But after another few miles, all traffic on the interstate came to a standstill. The three lanes narrowed down to one, and we were routed completely off the highway onto an off ramp. Judging from the number of emergency vehicles in the area, it looked like there was a much more serious accident on an icy bridge, and the highway patrol totally closed the interstate highway in both directions. After a few minutes of detour, we were back on the road to the airport, though, and the rest of the drive went smoothly. We checked in the car at Enterprise, took the shuttle to the main airport station, and checked in for our flight.

The flight to Chicago was fine. I got a Chicago style hot dog for lunch. But as we were waiting for our flight from Chicago to Newark, I got a text message from United saying that the flight was delayed due to crew problems. And it was delayed by two hours. Unfortunately, we only had a 90 minute layover planned in Newark, so this meant that there’s no way we could make our connection.

We hoofed it over to the United customer service desk before the crowd arrived. The agent didn’t seem very proficient, and definitely wasn’t fast, but she eventually re-routed our trip. Instead of flying from Chicago to Newark and then Delhi, we would fly from Chicago to Frankfurt and then switch to Lufthansa for a flight to Delhi. Beth wasn’t too happy with this turn of events, since it meant two long flights instead of one. The customer service agent gave us our new boarding passes, but said that we should keep our existing luggage claim tags. She would just update the computer so that the same luggage numbers applied to our new flights. (famous last words)

Later, our new flight was delayed again, but fortunately not so much that our layover in Frankfurt was at risk. And I got a text from United saying our original flight (the one with crew problems) had now been delayed even more, which gave me some small sense of satisfaction for some reason.

I got a little sleep on the plane, though not much. I never sleep much on a plane. The nice thing was that Beth and I had a three-seat row to ourselves, so we could stretch out with a seat in between us. Eventually, we got to Frankfurt in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday.

Have you ever been in the Frankfurt airport in the early, early morning? It is huge, like someone built the various parts of it intentionally as far away from each other and from anything interesting as absolutely possible. So we got lots of exercise walking from one concourse to another. Then we sat. For a long time.

While there, I got a couple text messages. First, I got a text that our original flight from Newark to Delhi was also delayed, so the delayed inbound flight we bailed out of would have made the connection after all. Sigh. Second, I got the news that our bags didn’t leave Chicago with us and are therefore not in Frankfurt and not going to be in Delhi when we arrive. We should check in at our final destination with the lost luggage desk. Sigh.

Eventually it was noon in the Lufthansa waiting area, and later we got on our Lufthansa plane for India. Flying to the east, this plane burned through the afternoon and also was soon in the dark, and we tried to sleep a little more. Sadly we didn’t have the extra room this time. It wasn’t a fun flight at all.

We arrived in Delhi and went through customs and all that stuff. At about 2am, nobody’s at their best, and Lufthansa’s lost luggage agents in Delhi were friendly but not very communicative (it’s weird to talk to an employee of a German airline whose English has an Indian accent). Eventually we got all the forms filled out, which took something like an hour. In the morning, they would send out a message to all airports we did or might have visited to try to track down our bags, have them sent to Delhi, and then deliver them to our hotel. Fortunately, the driver we had arranged to meet us at the airport and drive us to the hotel hadn’t abandoned us, and so we got a ride to the hotel, finally checking in about 4am.

To recap, we left Dorothy’s condo in Kansas City around 9am Saturday, and arrived at our hotel around 4am Monday. Fortunately, I brought one extra shirt and clean underwear, and my toothbrush. The first couple days in Delhi weren’t so great, but that’s another story.

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