Florence, Italy: An Ocean Still to Cross

Allora, my flight to Frankfurt was relaxing, but the airport was definitely not. After getting off the plane I made my way to the American Airlines ticket counter two concourses from my gate and talked to the wonderful clerk. Transatlantic flights are dependent upon three key components: 1) a plane, 2) passengers arriving on time, and 3) time zone differences (it doesn’t make sense to arrive at an airport at 3am). My flight into Frankfurt arrived almost an hour after my flight to Chicago left. I guess I didn’t follow the second one.

American Airlines only has two flights going across each day: one to Dallas and the other to Chicago. The lady could see the spark in my eye when she mentioned that and quickly extinguished it with reality by saying that the Dallas flight was completely full. She was incredibly helpful and booked me on the flight for tomorrow at the same time. When I asked her what I should do for the night (I’m pretty flexible and could even have just stayed in the airport all night), she said that Alitalia, since they were the ones who cancelled the flight, were the ones liable. She kindly pointed me to their desk on the other side of the hall.

I showed up to the Alitalia desk and was standing in line and hearing the lady at the counter utterly berating a lady who’d missed a flight from Milan to Toronto (the lady was saying she shouldn’t have even been in Frankfurt). Already fearing the worst, I stood in line and surprisingly had a smile on my face. It wasn’t one of those fake smiles that I sometimes do; I was authentically content.

A man then walked up behind the counter and asked how he could help. When I explained the situation, he immediately got angry and said “was your Lufthansa flight late?” (Lufthansa was the airline I took from Rome to Frankfurt). I looked at him, thought a minute, and said, “well, actually, yeah it was 10 minutes late — but I would have missed my connection in any case since the Alitalia flight was cancelled.” His attitude immediately changed and he asked to see all of my forms. I pulled them all out of my folder (when I normally travel I’m NEVER this organized — coming over to Europe I didn’t even have an e-ticket receipt or anything with me!) and gave them to him.

He went into a back office and came out five minutes later and started typing and telling me that he was going to transfer my American ticket to tomorrow. I think I made his day when I said I’d already had it done. He looked at me, smiled, and said that he was going to find me a hotel for the night. My smile had to have been so big! He booked the room, filled out the voucher and gave me all of the instructions with the final one: even though your bags were checked to Chicago, they’ll be waiting for you downstairs since you missed your flight.

I made my way into the baggage claim and I knew they wouldn’t be there on the carousel. The Lufthansa people were incredible in handling it: when I asked them to trace them they first asked why I was over an hour late (a short: “I missed my flight and the next one’s not until tomorrow” solved that one) and then searched on the computer and said that they were already in the queue for my flight tomorrow. PERFECT!!! After I assured them that I didn’t need them for tonight (who wants to haul around 40kg of luggage around just for a night in a hotel?), I made my way to the shuttle and took it to the hotel.

I’ve stayed in some nice hotels, and this is definitely one of the better ones. Since I have a single room, there’s a leather recliner that I can use to start on my newest book: Graham Greene’s novel The Man Within. Also, the bathroom came with amenities that I just laughed at: an individually wrapped comb and a bottle of shampoo. I’ll probably use the shampoo (even though I’m used to body wash now) — but the comb is definitely going to stay there.

I’m now going to read a little before grabbing dinner (which the airlines also paid for, along with the breakfast). :) Going with the flow and having a smile really does pay off sometimes.

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