Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Homeward bound: Not out of the (Vienna) Woods yet—

We got out of bed at the indecent hour of 4:30AM to get to the airport for a 7:30AM boarding. We checked out and the hotel’s cab was there for us. We got to the airport, checked in, found our gate, and settled in, no problem so far. We were waiting for boarding to be announced, when I noticed the electronic sign at the gate blank out and be replaced with info for a flight to Stuttgart at 8:30AM. Not A Good Sign, thought I, and went to find one of the notice boards for all flights to see if there had been a gate change. I found it, but next to the flight number there was no gate number, but an ominous looking German word. “What does that mean?” I asked one of the security personnel. “Canceled,” he replied. Oh, crap. I went back to tell Georgie what I had found out just before one of the ground staff came to make the official announcement. The Alitalia flight was grounded due to an unspecified technical difficulty. We needed to retrieve our baggage at the claim area, then go to the check-in area to get rebooked on such other flights as could be found to take us where we needed to go. This of course affected not only us, but the entire small planeload of people who had been expecting to fly to Milan that morning. We dragged our bags back to the check-in hall and stood in line for an hour and a half while the airport ground staff made connections for each of the stranded passengers. When our turn came, it took only a few minutes to get us an alternative booking on Swiss International Airlines back to Chicago via Zurich. “Good” we said. I asked if anyone knew what had happened with the Alitalia flight? “Something technical and they couldn’t fix it. You know Alitalia,” the counterman shrugged. Indeed, thought I, that doesn’t inspire confidence--.

The Swiss counter was right behind us, and we went there with our vouchers. The Swiss people were very helpful getting us checked in, although they had a mechanical problem printing new baggage tags. We got boarding passes, which showed that the flight was in—ten minutes? “Can we make it?” we asked. “Oh, yes!” we were assured. Not very comforted, we essentially flung ourselves and carry-on gear at the gate security people and hastened to the new gate, to find that when the Swiss mean the flight is at 9:25AM, that’s when it starts to board—not takes off. Whew!

Swiss International flies Airbus equipment, and we found the 320 series craft that took us to Zurich quite comfortable, and the A380 that carried us from Zurich to Chicago more comfortable yet. Although we had interior seats, I think we were better seated then the Alitalia Boeing that had brought us over. I was surprised, since the Airbus we traveled to and from Ireland in was noisier and more wearing, but I suppose there are differences in individual airlines equipment and finishing that are noticeable.

On the ground in Zurich, we had ample but not excessive time to get literally from one end of the airport to the other—the two terminals are connected by an underground tram. We might have time to add some Swiss chocolate to our hoard, but we noticed that prices in the Zurich stores were posted in Swiss Francs rather than Euros—never occurred to me Switzerland wasn’t on the Euro—and we just didn’t feel like even talking to anyone to see if the stores would take the Euros we had, so we just pushed on to our next gate.

Once boarded, we were able to relax somewhat, although, as Georgie said, we couldn’t be really happy until we got to O’Hare and saw our baggage on the carousel. The Swiss cabin service was superior, although the food we had from Alitalia for main meal was better. The Swiss had nice touches like giving out warm moist washcloths just before landing, and I’d definitely consider flying with them again.

We had a very smooth flight and got into O’Hare with no difficulty and through passport control with little waiting. The baggage system did disgorge our bags, we changed our few Euro bills back to US currency, and went out to wait for the Coach Wisconsin bus. We had no problem getting it, and I phoned Henry Osier a couple of times during the trip to update him on our ETA. He met us at the Amtrak depot stop and hauled us safely home at last.
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