neljapäev, aprill 16, 2009


We missed our flight to Helsinki by two minutes last week. We arrived at the check-in desk at 7.47 am, to be told by the clerk, a human devoid of all empathy, that two minutes is a long time in aviation. She had closed the flight at 7.45 am.

With our two children, one of whom was fairly sick, we explored other options. Despite the apparent unfairness of the situation, we decided to take a fast ferry to Helsinki and rejoin our journey to New York there.

But there was another problem. The 10 am fast ferry was cancelled due to ice in Helsinki harbor. At this point, I summoned my inner Sonny Corleone. I imagined throwing garbage cans at the Finnair customer service agents, three of whom hung up on me while they went to run my query past their supervisor.

Finally, a compassionate Finnish person arrived at a solution: they would inform the gate at Helsinki that four New York-bound passengers would be arriving a few minutes late. We then boarded a slow ferry to Helsinki that was scheduled to dock at 1 pm. If we took a cab, we could make it to the gate by 1.40 -- just enough time to board. So we relaxed on the ferry and listened to instrumental piano versions of "Garota de Ipanema" while I downed several more coffees -- necessary for supervising my children, as the wife was also under the weather (hence our early morning tardiness).

But there was a problem. A technical problem. The ferry did not dock until 1.20 pm. This allowed us 20 minutes for running the 250 meter long ramp off the ferry, hailing a taxi, speeding through the thickest Helsinki traffic, and getting to the international terminal at Vantaa. Of course we didn't make it. My lungs heavy with fluid from dragging a gigantic suitcase down a ramp at frantic speed, I was almost relieved when they told us that, at 1.53 when we arrived, we could not board the plane.

After going to the transfer desk, hat in hand, children in tow, my breath still heavy, a God of a customer service agent named Lindström decided to book us on a flight the next day. And we would have a full 24 hours to recuperate in the silence of Finnish suburbia. For reasons barely understood by me, I love Finland. Maybe it's because it's the place where I met my wife, or maybe the sky is so blue and trees so green, or maybe even because the people are helpful and unintrusive. Whatever it is, I was glad we were there.

The problem is that I wish it was easier to get there. It is an important place. And to get to this very important place, you either have to take one of two daily small planes or a ferry, that may or may not be running due to the weather. Wouldn't it be great if the politicians who constantly tease us with big ideas about a chunnel-like undersea connection to Helsinki would make good on their word and get to work digging it? Then I wouldn't have to nearly suffer cardiac arrest just to get between two points that are only 80 kilometers (55 miles) apart.

14 kommentaari:

Indrek ütles ...

Well... If you knew there was a tunnel, that wouldn't make any difference on catching the New York plane.

You would take that into consideration (thus leaving home later) and still be two minutes late ;P

Unknown ütles ...

Yeah, I live like 300 metres from my school and I'm always the last one to arrive in class.

TE ütles ...

"Yeah, I live like 300 metres from my school and I'm always the last one to arrive in class." :-D

Triin ütles ...

I would prefer Tallinn to New York direct flight. Or a tunnel to New York. Straight through the earth.

antyx ütles ...

Meh. It would be a bigger job than the Channel Tunnel, and the traffic volume isn't even enough to keep the helicopters in business.

Kristopher ütles ...

I think everyone should travel less. There, now I've gone and been a total party-pooper.

Is "The Garrote of Ipanema" the Johnny Fontaine cover of "The Girl from Ipanema"?

Colm ütles ...

Ouch. Not the best of situations. Hope your girls have recovered from the excitement.

matude ütles ...

Very odd and unfortunate that you missed the plane by 2 minutes. Usually they are very helpful in these situations, if the plane hasn't already taxied to the runway they can always contact the crew and stall the flight.

Maybe you should have talked to another person about the same problem while the first person still sees you, so it would have made the two very uncomfortable and thus eventually help you. :)

Shame though that one has to manipulate people in these situations. 2 minutes is definitely not a lot of time even in aviation.

Paradoxical that flights are delayed in Tallinn all the time, but just not when there's a need for it.

LPR ütles ...

I would have called in a bomb threat both to Tallinn and Vantaa as soon as I would have realized that we are not gonna make it. And then take it easy for the rest of the day and enjoy the fluids and blue sky.

Don't panic should be the eleventh commandment.

12th could be - always use your head.

13th could be - be patient.

Ah, never mind ...

Have a nice trip and welcome back to normality. :-)

Weather is fantastic on East Coast this weekend.

Jaanus ütles ...

Rushing sucks. Just go to airport for the right time the next time, instead of last minute. :P True, it's a bit of a time waste to sit at the airport and idly wait for the flight to board, but it's better than the alternative shown in this post.

I have a simple rule of showing up at least 60 minutes before domestic US or European flight, and 90 minutes before transcontinental. Hasn't failed me yet.

Sharon B ütles ...

I didn't need to hear this:

Paradoxical that flights are delayed in Tallinn all the time, but just not when there's a need for it.I've just had a major arm-wrestle over a connecting flight that only gives me 40 minutes to change planes in Prague. My travel agent dutifully conveyed my belief that 40 minutes is not a suitable window, should there be unforeseen delays. The odd people at the other end of the transaction assured us it was, and said the only way I could get a longer gap between connecting flights was to fork out more money and pay for a different flight.

Considering they changed my flights in the first place (since the Amsterdam-Tallinn leg was canceled), I think their lack of flexibility was rather poor form.

Oh, and the English teacher in me feels the need to point out that it isn't "paradoxical" at all - just damned annoying.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Let me just say this ...who would not bend the rules for a family with 2 small children and one of them, a baby sick with a cold.
We are not talking 15 minutes here...we are talking 3 minutes.
How rigid is that.. You Miss "ground clerk" were standing behind your "power counter" looking at this little family and you couldn't call the gate and say I have 4 passengers, 2 of them little children who will be there in a just minutes..
I can only imagine the BS reasons that flights have been delayed due to the Airline's own employees , someone on the crew was late someone needed a snack or a toilet break.. This situation was never holding up the flight's departure time...and their luggage agh common.. it's a small plane, the luggage can get put on.
The ground crew is still out there till departure.
How much time was there before the flight left the Tarmac..(no gate on this flight) perhaps 30 minutes?
I have flown in and out of Tallinn airport many times...If they were only 3 minutes late why couldn't they have helped them..instead they got that all to frequent cold dead stare from the warm personal service capitol of the world,

Way to go Vantaa/Finncom... and to think you, Finnair were once my favorite airline.

Justin ütles ...

Did you consider the Tallink Star/Superstar ferries? They take 2 hours in all weather. Generally they run on time in my experience.

As for check-in, is ground handling at Tallinn Airport for Finnair done by Tallinn Airport (their ground service branch)? They seem to be less flexible in my experience. Estonian Air, at least up until this year (I believe they are also planning to outsource ground handling), would bend the rules a few minutes for me on some occasions. It may have helped that I was a Eurobonus Gold member -- they actually mentioned that when they called to the baggage loaders to ask if there is still time to put my bag on the flight.

Ain Kendra ütles ...

Yeah and thus Justin expects that Ülenurme airport starts regular operations this autumn again.
Rumours that with Stockholm flights. But yet rumours only.
Clearly no US - closest US flights from Riga - btw why dont you try this side?