if you’re flying to Italy, take a German airline

Skies over Florence

This is something I wrote several years ago, but I thought after the recent trip to Florence, it’d be a nice time to repeat it. You’ll notice that we did return to the beautiful Tuscan city. On Lufthansa I assure you.

Hope you enjoy:

So, I was recently asked why I prefer train travel to taking a plane or driving.  Anyone who travels a lot has a few horror stories.  And I know statistically flying is incomparably safe.  But I still love the train.  Relatively regularly a high-speed train in Germany hits a flock of sheep or some poor sap ending it all who couldn’t manage to find a gun.  Doesn’t faze me one bit.  I’ll keep taking the train regardless.

Here’s my worst flying story.  I should say my second worst, but the worst was a result of my stupidity and the one I’m about to tell deals with the ineptitude of an airline.  Many people threaten never to fly with an airline again after a bad experience.  I’ve done that a few times, and then once more I find the best price with that company and off I am with them in the friendly skies.  But this story has to do with the exception.

If Alitalia is still in business, they shouldn’t be.  We had enjoyed a beautiful week in Florence.  Had a private tour of the Ufizzi, saw the churches that the Medici family built, ate a mountain of fresh delicious Mediterranean grub and were both sad and happy to be going back to the land of good bread and better sausage.  Days of walking and an early check-out in the hotel convinced us to go to the aeroport early.  We arrived a full to hours before our scheduled flight.  How were we to know it wasn’t nearly early enough?

As we waited in line to check in, it became increasingly clear that something wasn’t right.  The people ahead of us had become visibly angry and eventually we found out that the flight wasn’t in fact going to take off at all.  They cited heavy wind over Milan (our connection).  They assured us that if there were a way, they’d clear our flight for take-off.

We went with all of our bags and waited for news.  Ours was one of the last flights to leave the little aeroport that day and we had no hotel reservations.  They aren’t always easy to come by in this very popular city.

As we waited, the little sign on the monitor informed us that our flight was boarding.  We rushed back to the check-in counter and the very polite airline worker assured us that although the flight was boarding, the pilot had limited the passenger count to two hundred.

WHAT???

Our flight hadn’t been cancelled?  We’ve merely been bumped?  Even though we were two hours early?  WHAT???

The others who’d been bumped were furious, but here’s where my journalist wife raised her mane and roared.  ‘You will either give us our seats on this airplane, or you will find us another flight immediately!’  They assured us they would do their best.  She glared at their seemingly empty sentiments.  The Dutch couple behind us tried to pull off the same theatrics, but the nice, overworked airline slave was still too rattled by the wrath of my lioness.

It seemed like an eternity, but they returned with an answer.  They had a flight on Lufthansa to Frankfurt and getting from there back to Munich is one of the easiest flights you can get in Europe.  I neglected to mention that both the flights from Munich to Milan and then Milan to Florence offered the bumpiest landings I can recall experiencing.  I was relieved and even excited that we were flying with the reliable former national airline of Germany.

Wonder if the winds over Milan are always choppy or only when Alitalia has sold too many tickets.  I’ll never know.  We heard the pilot’s announcements in two languages, neither of which were Italian, as we rose above the Southern Alps.  Our flight to Frankfurt was boring.  Just the way it should be.  We made the connection and were home before you could say “Buena Sera!”  If I ever go back to see the city of the Medici, it’ll be on a slow, ancient Italian train.

At least then I have a train workers’ strike to look forward to.

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