Thursday, May 5, 2011

Space Available-No such thing as a free flight

Bear with me as I flashback to March and April in the next few blogs to catch you up with my trip...

Germany's University schedule is quite different than our own, starting its "Winter Semester" in October and its "Sommer Semester" in April. After finishing up my fall semester at Coe in December, I headed home to New Mexico for a few months of relaxing, a little babysitting, and research, but mostly relaxing. I was quite happy to skip the winter weather in Cedar Rapids! The official start of classes in Landau was April 18th, with move in days between the 1st and the 6th. My mom and I planned to leave New Mexico a few weeks before, to visit friends in Prague, Berlin, and Hamburg.

Since my mom is a retired member of the Public Health Service, she is able to fly Space Available on military flights overseas. As her daughter, I'm allowed to go with. She had flown from BWI in Baltimore once before and suggested that we fly Space A as a way to save a bit of money. The way Space A works is that you call the hotline to listen for flight information available within the next two days. There is no posted schedule weeks or months in advance. You just have to hope you'll get lucky in planning your flight. For several months, my mom routinely called to check up on the available flights to the Ramstein Airbase in Germany and recorded the schedules. From this data, we thought it would be safe to get a flight out on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings. My mom also has a friend who lives in the D.C. area, with whom we could stay if we needed to wait for a flight.

We scheduled a flight for Tuesday, March 22nd to Baltimore. Unfortunately, when we called for flight information on Monday there were no outgoing flights on Tuesday evening. We kept with our plans however, flew to Baltimore and stayed over night with my mom's friend Kim and her family. (This included a rather comical trip on the bus involving the juggling of two 44 lb suitcases, one 25 lb check on, one 15 lb backpack, and a purse--that was just mine--mom had a 33 lb suitcase and a hefty carry on. I know, I should've tried to pack lighter).

                                             Inside the National Shrine in Washington D.C.

Wednesday proved a better day for flying to Germany, as there were two planes going out that evening, each with around 100 seats available. Since my mom is retired, she would be lower on the list of names called to fly--behind active duty members etc. but we were keeping our fingers crossed. We sign in and wait... The roll call begins and what seems like hundreds of names are called, except our own. My stomach drops in disappointment but my ears prick up when we hear they will announce an extra-last call in a few minutes. Our names were dead last but we were on the list! Winner winner chicken dinner! Then came the waiting in line to get a ticket, paying a $25 fee for flying, and checking our bags. My mom commented that it really is true that the military does teach you how to wait in line. $25 may sound like an outrageously good price for flying to Germany, but it wasn't without its share of stress, changes in plans, and of course waiting. There is no such thing as a free flight!

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