In line at Gate 6 at 12:35 for boarding Flight #194 SFO-Munich departing at 1:20pm on Sunday, April 3. Nobody has moved in line for over 20 minutes. Gate agent says plane is still being serviced and boarding will commence once plane is cleared. This makes no sense to me. The aircraft arrived from EWR in the morning and has been sitting at SFO for hours.
A few minutes after 1:00pm the gate agent says the issue is a catering truck ran into the aircraft and there is a crack in the plane’s exterior. We receive notification the flight departure will be delayed to 2:00pm while the plane is inspected.
Kelley and I return to the G gates United Club lounge. Before long we receive another message that a new plane has been lined up for a 4:30pm departure. We spend another 2.5 hours in the United lounge before walking to the new gate G7. The departure is moved to 5:15pm. I am amazed that United substituted another 772 aircraft so no passenger seats need to be changed. The aircraft is packed and we have Seats 51A-51B in the rear of the aircraft where there are two rows with only two seats.
After sitting on the plane for 45 minutes we are notified the flight crew has timed out for their maximum duty time. We are told we must deplane the aricraft while a new flight crew is put in place for travel to Germany. The flight attendant says every passenger will receive a $20 meal voucher for SFO in their email. We walk over to the domestic terminal where there are more food options. 30 minutes later we still have not received any email vouchers for food. We go to the F Gates United Club lounge where an agent prints out two $10 food vouchers for our delayed flight. (Side note: a couple days later when in Venice I finally found the United food voucher emails but the links had already expired. I don’t know if other passengers received $10 or $20 meal vouchers.)
I buy one personal pizza and a bottle of water for $21.25 combining our two $10 vouchers.
At 8:20pm I receive a text message that a new crew has been assigned and departure is 9:30pm. We head to Gate 7 and start boarding around 9:00pm. What had been a crowded aircraft at 5:00pm has now dwindled down so that the only people we can see on the plane with a seatmate is Kelley and I and a couple of German women in the two seats behind us. At least six rows visible across the aircraft from our seats have only one passenger. Some people in the 4 middle seats sections have already laid down and gone to sleep before the flight departs around 10:00pm.
The flight is the hottest plane ride I have been on in years. At one point I wake up from a 90 minute sleep drenched in sweat and feeling like I am about to pass out. I am in jeans and a t-shirt and consider getting shorts out of my luggage. I hang out in the large toilet and drench my head with water.
The plane remained in sweat mode until about 90 minutes before landing in Munich when the temperature drops to what I consider normal cool for a transatlantic flight. We land around 5:35pm Monday when our original landing time was scheduled for 9:20am. Nearly every person on the aircraft who had a connecting flight from Munich has to be rebooked. We are directed to go to the Lufthansa Service Center for rebooking our flights. With all day in United lounges at SFO I made several attempts to rebook our flights to Venice and I was told we had a Tuesday morning booking lined up.
Since we were seated in the back of the aircraft we arrive at the Lufthansa Service Center about 5:50pm to find some 60 passengers in line before us and four Lufthansa agents. Good news is some people are being processed in less than 5 minutes. Bad news is three passengers spend more than 30 minutes each with an agent. After an hour in line we get rebooked for the next morning’s Air Dolomiti flight at 8:30am. We are given a voucher for a hotel night at NH Munich Airport and dinner vouchers for the hotel. The Lufthansa agent gives directions to where we can catch the hotel shuttle.
Outside we realize that Germany is quite a bit colder than the weather we packed for in Venice. 30F with a wind chill in the teens is a wake up call. Welcome to Germany.
My bright spot thought – I don’t recall ever staying in an NH hotel before.
I had been up since 4:00am Sunday morning Monterey time and it was 11am Monday Monterey time when we arrived at the NH Hotel Munich Airport at 20:00. After 31 hours in travel with about 90 minutes sleep we were ready for some food and beer, followed by a bed.
In the end, we fell asleep in a hotel in Munich, Germany instead of Venice, Italy for the first day of our European vacation. When I woke up in Germany in the early morning hours I looked at my phone to see United Airlines sent an apology and a $150Â airline credit voucher for both me and Kelley.
Venice Stairways and Canals (April 2022)