Winter Air Travel to Austria is Stressful

As I lifelong Chicago resident, I know that flying into, or out of, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is a potential winter disaster in the making. However,  Chicago had very little snow this winter; we’d been lucky and dodged the bullet until today. However, not worried as Airlines move heaven and earth to get International flights out before Domestic, doing their best to avoid the mother of all logjams with crew and plane stuck thousands of miles away.

The next SIX HOURS was spent sitting on a United Airlines plane flying eventually (we hoped) to Frankfurt, Germany. Because of the snow? No, no, no. A  747 heading to Hong Kong pulled away from the gate next to us to get deiced while we waited our turn. O’Hare commonly deices planes after they back away from the gate. Unfortunately, the 747 tail was directly behind us, in the plane’s path, and we couldn’t move.

Saalbach, Austria slopes


Around an hour later, United Airlines decided to deice our flight at the gate. Deiced, we sat. Sat some more. The 747 to Hong Kong was deiced again. Three hours later, the powers that be came to the conclusion that the 747 had a mechanical and towed it back to its original gate.

By now, it’s evident that we would miss our flight from Frankfurt to Salzburg and are stressed. The plane moves out to the runway, stops, and an announcement is made, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Pilot speaking. The co-Pilot and I have decided there is ice on the wings. We will return to the gate to get deiced again.”  Back at the gate, United opens the door and people run of the plane to buy food.

Fortunately, this flight was fairly empty, and people had room to spread out, eliminating plane rage. We had been upgraded to First Class and enjoyed the advantage. United popped open wine, First Class passengers stood around and drank. UAL assured all of us, including a women on her way to Saudi Arabia, that we were all rebooked on new flights out of Frankfurt. According to them, we were now on a 12:00n flight, Frankfurt to Salzburg. What do I do about Click Transfer, supposed to meet us at 9:00a? Call them now when it is 2:00a in Austria? I guess not.


Six hours later, our plane took off into the “friendly skies,” on its way to Frankfurt.

Approaching Frankfurt, a new announcement, “A passenger is ill and no one can get off the plane until Paramedics come on to take care of him. Please stay in your seats.” (What else can go wrong?) Landing, our flight pulls into a remote parking area, without a jetway, and passengers have to be bused to the terminal.

Paramedics on, passengers are finally allowed to disembark. A bus to terminal, through Passport Control, Security (my boots set off the alarm, I have to be patted down and scanned), race to the Lufthansa Lounge to discover — we are on standby. (Just imagine how we stunk and looked by now – not a pretty sight.) Stressed to the max, we were not guaranteed seats because there was a overweight issue on small equipment. Duh, everyone has snowboards, and skis, in addition to suitcases. Lufthansa helped me call Click Transfer, we gave, fingers crosssed, what we hoped would be new arrival information, went to the gate and hovered over people working the Salzburg flight who were busy offloading luggage pieces.

There was enough space for us! On the plane, land in foggy Salzburg and, you guessed it, our suitcases were not there. (Go ahead, shoot us.) I sent Steve to see if our Click Transfer person was standing beyond the baggage area to shout we have to file a claim with Austrian Tyrol Airlines (Lufthansa co-share).

In line with other passengers missing luggage, personnel tell us that, supposedly, our suitcases will arrive at the Hotel Gappmaier around 1:00a. Argh

Hotel Gappmaier in Saalbach, Austria


In the car with Fritz, our patient Click Transfer driver, and head towards Saalbach, through snow that is becoming heavier and heavier, as the drive gains altitude. Two hours later and who knows how many hours since we first awoke in Chicago, we are at the wonderful Hotel Gappmaier, just in time for a humungous Italian buffet and more wine!

tomatoes and mozzarella on Hotel Gappemaier buffet, Austria

small part of salad buffet at Hotel Gappmaier, Saalbach


Tomorrow has to be better than today, and yesterday.

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