Trip report: A perfect day

March 5th 2008, 16:51 | Written by Konstantin Koll

This trip report is about a flight in February from DUS to BOS via ZRH on a Lufthansa ticket, but in the end operated by Swiss. Poor planning and computer crashes actually made a perfect day in Zurich—just as multiplying two negative numbers result in a positive one!


I was attending a conference in SJC, and booked a routing through ZRH for the outbound flight. My trip was scheduled to start on a Thursday, as a dear friend of mine worked in Zurich as a consultant during the week, and her return flight to HAJ was always scheduled on a late Thursday afternoon. This would give me the opportunity to surprise her and meet her at the airport.

I've chosen a DUS-ZRH flight that landed in Zurich around 3pm, with my friend scheduled to HAJ on 5:40pm. My onward flight to BOS would not leave before 7pm, as Swiss has one of the latest departures of any Europe-America flight. Everything worked out just fine, and I could book the neccessary flights on relatively low fares (which were restricted, mind you).

Desaster unfolds

All my plans were made obsolete when my friend told me that she would fly to DUS on that single Thursday to take an examn, and her flight would depart ZRH at 3:30pm instead of 5:40pm. This made meeting my friend virtually impossible—bummer!

I had about a week left before I would embark on my trip to San Jose, and during those days I've tried everything humanly possible to rebook my flights to accomodate for my friend's changed plans. As my ticket was on a restricted fare, rebooking the DUS-ZRH part was not allowed. Not showing up for the flight, and booking a separate morning flight into ZRH would cancel the entire itinerary. Cancelling the ticket and rebooking would come with a very hefty price tag, so this wasn't a viable option either. Damn.


I could get almost no sleep the night before my departure, and waking up at 4am I decided to drive to DUS early—after all, I could while away the hours there as well as lying awake in my bed, and maybe there was some way to rebook my flight directly at the airport. After all, you never know!

To my utter surprise, I was met by chaos and very long queues when I arrived at Düsseldorf International Airport. I soon found out that all ATC computers at the airport had crashed that morning, so ATC was conducted manually. This led to huge delays. Great, that's all I needed (for real, as I was to find out very soon).

I queued at the Lufthansa ticket counter, behind lots of people that wanted to rebook their flights because they wouldn't make their connections. When it was my turn, I've told my story to the lady behind the counter. Since it was Valentine's Day the day before, and so “I could make my connection to Boston”, she tried to rebook me on the next flight to ZRH, which was about to board just some 20 minutes later! Unfortunately, the flight was already closed in the booking system, but she phoned the station manager. He accepted me on the flight, and gave me the last open seat on the plane! I was told to rush to First Class checkin, bypass the queue, and deliver my bag. Hooray, after all I was on my way to ZRH in time to meet with my friend—not without thanking the station manager personally, as I met him near my gate!


In the end, I made it to ZRH before noon, and was able to meet my dear friend. She was utterly surprised by this, and we had a great time hanging out some two hours. I had a great onward flight to BOS, and even received 2000 miles on my frequent flyer account for DUS-ZRH, as I was apparently rebooked to Business Class.

I'd like to sincerely thank Ms. Müller and Ms. Barati of Lufthansa in DUS for making this perfect day possible—Everything for this moment!

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