Those of you who read my Belgium Travel Fails blog post will be aware that me and my friends got off to an unfortunate start with our flight. The moment I got home I lodged a complaint and waited for a response. We were told we’d each receive some compensation money and I imagined that we’d probably receive about £40 each. I mean, the flights had cost about £108 each, our flight home left on time and we’d actually still made it to Belgium on the day we were meant to so I figured we’d get a part refund. Imagine my surprise when we each received about £230 each.
Immediately I was on skyscanner planning the next trip and before I knew it I’d booked myself flights to Berlin and back. I’ve wanted to visit Berlin for a few years now and my friends Becca and Jess had been in 2017, and both of them said they loved it. I booked my hotel and before I knew it Friday 5th July had come around and I was ready to set off.
Although I’m a nervous flyer and it’s not recommended I like being at the airport as early as possible. I need time to account for long queues and then I want time to relax in the departures lounge before catching the flight instead of having to rush around everywhere. I was flying with Flybe who I like flying with because I like their self-service machines and for some reason I just trust them more than I do other airlines. Also generally their flights are more comfortable as they’re 2-2 instead of 3-3.
I sauntered down to the self-service machine, popped my passport in and then… The machine told me it wasn’t possible to check-in? I didn’t have any suspicions at this point, I optimistically went up to the main desk and told the women there the self-service machine hadn’t let me check-in. Maybe I was too early, maybe because I’d booked through a third party site they needed to manually check me in – oh how naïve I was.
Turns out my flight had been downgraded and there was now no longer a seat available for me on the plane. My options were a flight the next day at 6:40AM or a 7PM flight to Hannover today with a coach taking us to Berlin. Neither option was particularly perfect and I asked if the airline would put me up in a hotel for the night if I chose the 6:40AM one but I was informed that since they’d offered me an alternative to get there today they wouldn’t be able to. So I took the Hannover flight.
To be fair to the women that had to break this news to me she immediately gave me a compensation form that she’d filled in, told me how to send it off and made sure I got a food voucher to spend in the airport while I was waiting. Sure £7.50 wasn’t going to get me far but it knocked a bit off my usual pre-flight meal in Giraffe.
The first thing I did was tell my Mom, my best friends and a colleague from work. I hadn’t taken out my frustration on the woman behind the desk because that wouldn’t have achieved anything but I needed to let it out somehow so I had a good rant to everyone I could think of that would actually give a damn.
Obviously I was pleased I was still reaching Berlin tonight but Hannover is about a three hour drive away from Berlin so at the best we were going to make it there by midnight. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that for me, my least favourite part about solo travel and the part that makes me nervous, is getting from the airport to my accommodation. I’m not sure why but once I’ve checked in I can relax and enjoy the holiday, the moments leading up to it though are anxiety-ridden.
I messaged Flybe on Twitter to ask where we were going to be dropped off and was informed it would it be at Berlin Tegel airport which to me didn’t make sense – what am I supposed to do at the airport at midnight, how would I get to the city centre? But there wasn’t much to be done so I got on my flight to Hannover and hoped for the best.
The flight went smoothly and landed a lot quicker than I’d thought it would. I was one of the first off the plane, raced through border control, quickly used the bathroom and then went to find the coach. I was terrified at getting left behind and at first I had no idea where to go so I went over to the information desk. Luckily I was intercepted by a lady whose job it was to round up all the Hannover-Berlin people, she told me where to wait and said there was eighteen of us that she needed to find.
I was the first one there and it was quite a wait as people slowly made their way over. One couple even went and grabbed some food which was slightly annoying as we were left waiting but they turned out to be nice so I let them off the hook. After about maybe half-an-hour there was a grand total of nine people even though she’d been expecting eighteen of us. She made us wait another ten minutes before finally taking us over to the coach people. I had a quick look at the prices for transfers when we got there and it was a whopping 325 euros to be transferred to Berlin!
There was then a bit of a kerfuffle as some of the guests thought along the same lines as me – being dropped at the airport so late at night was a bad idea and it would be a lot easier if we were dropped off somewhere central. There was a lot of arguing in German whilst I stood there awkwardly until eventually one passenger who could speak German and English said “Who doesn’t speak German and needs me to translate that conversation?” He was actually super helpful and sort of became the ‘leader’ of our little group as he managed to convince our driver that being dropped off at the central train station in Berlin would be a better idea.
I ended up in a car with him and two guys from China whilst the rest of the group got into a different car. The people I was travelling with were lovely to be fair, we did some quick introductions before we set off but then as it was so late we tried to sleep or just chilled on the long journey. The driver asked if we wanted to stop on the way but we were all keen to just get to Berlin at this point so we said no. To be fair our driver got us there quicker than expected but due to the delays before we left we made it to Berlin at about 1:20AM.
I hoped and prayed that we wouldn’t be a long walk from my hotel but Google Maps said it was about forty minutes. Not impossible, I’ve walked that far before but I didn’t really want to set off by myself at this time for a forty minute walk in an unfamiliar country. Luckily there was public transport still running and according to Google Maps it would only take about twenty minutes. The German/English guy checked with everyone whether they were going to be okay to find their accommodation and we went our separate ways.
I was surprised public transport was still running but also surprised how busy it was? I think it’s a good idea to have public transport still running so late on a Friday night but I’m pretty sure they don’t do that in London. Luckily I didn’t get lost once and before I knew it I’d made it to my ibis styles hotel.
Someone was still up and on reception and by this point I was so happy I hadn’t gone for an independent budget hotel as sometimes these don’t have twenty-four reception. Check-in went smoothly and quickly, and I took the lift up to my room. I was right down the end of the corridor so I found my room, put my key in the door and… It wouldn’t turn all the way? I tried back and forth for a good five solid minutes before admitting defeat and heading back to reception.
I told him the key wasn’t working and he was like “oh maybe you got the wrong one” but I was pretty sure that wasn’t the problem because the key still fit in the door? Never mind, he went and fetched me a new key and told me he’d watch out on the CCTV footage to make sure I got into my room. So back up I went and yet again, unsurprisingly, it didn’t work. I headed back towards the lift and the receptionist came out, confused as to why I couldn’t get in. He came down the corridor… And immediately opened my door with the key I’d been using. I was baffled but he just said “The door gets a bit stiff sometimes” – I was certain that wasn’t the problem as I’d been putting my full weight on the door at some points. Whatever. I went in, had the quickest shower ever then finally collapsed into bed.
I was up earlyish to fit in with the times the hotel served breakfast (which to be honest hadn’t been worth paying the extra money for) and got locked out of my room again afterwards. Luckily I’d heard two other guests complaining they were locked out of their room too so I knew it wasn’t just me having these issues. A different receptionist was on this time and she came with me to my room and immediately opened it. She advised you have to pull the door towards you when you open it so I was able to actually get into my room for the rest of the trip. I was a bit annoyed though considering I’d spent the extra for a ‘styles’ hotel – why do I need to perform circus tricks to get into the bloody room?
To be fair as trips go this one went quite smoothly. The main thing was really that I kept worrying about unnecessary things. I kept getting stressed about public transport but I navigated it smoothly. I was worried I didn’t have the right transport ticket but on the three times my ticket was inspected they all thanked me and said it was correct.
The only major fail I can think of whilst actually in Berlin was that on Saturday night, after an extremely late night and a full day of sightseeing I was looking forward to climbing into bed and having an early night. I don’t know what was going on across the road, there was like a little outdoor pub/club and some guy kept talking extremely loudly into a microphone for about three hours then occasionally playing songs. I assume there was some kind of quiz night or something but it was SO LOUD. I just laid in bed fuming my absolute head off until luckily it eventually stopped and I was able to fall asleep.
Unfortunately disaster struck again when I reached Berlin Tegel airport to return home. I went to check in but unlike at other airports this one didn’t have the self-service machine – I don’t like hanging round the first bit of the airport, I like being in the departures lounge so I went up to the desk but was advised check-in wasn’t open yet. No biggie, I headed to Starbucks and got myself a drink and a cake.
As I sat there I got a text alerting me that my ‘8:15PM’ flight was now a ‘9:40PM’ flight. Not the biggest disaster in the world but it started me worrying on whether I was going to catch the last train home. I never book the day after a trip off work, I just don’t have enough annual leave for that and the last thing I needed was to sleep at the train station for the night. I tried to think optimistically though.
Eventually check-in opened so I got my boarding pass and I soon discovered that Berlin Tegel airport is the weirdest airport ever? At every airport I’ve been to you go through security into a central departures lounge. Not here, you wait by your gate, go through security there and then just sit in that specific gate until your plane arrives. I was praying there’d be a food stand and luckily there was, I grabbed a hot dog, two bottles of water and sat down to relax. Security had been slow and frustrating but I was through to the gate now, I could just relax.
Wrong sir, wrong! After watching the first episode of ‘Derry Girls’ on Netflix I overheard a woman announcing anyone waiting for the flight to Birmingham now had to go a different gate. This other gate was literally on the other side of the airport, I had to get in an elevator, go down, literally leave the airport and enter a different building only to join another long security queue. I had to bin my two unopened bottles of water and nearly ended up in a long ‘documentation check’ queue but luckily followed two girls and went through an automatic system straightaway.
I think if I hadn’t had issues with my flight on the way over I’d have been fine but since there’d been so many flight problems I was literally like stomping around the airport in the worst mood. Fair play to our pilot though who was like “I apologise for the delay BUT I AM GONNA SAIL US BACK TO THE UK, WE WILL GET THERE EARLIER THAN SCHEDULED” and was true to his word. I was very stressed but did manage to make it to my last train in time.
To be fair, in the grand scheme of things all of these ‘fails’ were outside of my control and compared to other trips I feel went extremely well. So pat on the back to me, I finally had a trip where I didn’t make a complete idiot of myself. Well, I did get locked out of my hotel room but never mind. Could have been worse!