We ended the trip much as we began it, but in reverse. This time we left the hotel relatively early, went to the station, and I helped my nieces onto a S-Bahn heading to the Hauptbahnhof where they would board an ICE bound for Hamburg, then continue on to Copenhagen. I returned to the hotel planning on having the breakfast that was included in my rate before heading on to the Munich airport, but there was some form of a mixup between my reservation confirmation and the way the room had been handled in their system, and I figured I had better things to do than to get in an argument about an overpriced breakfast buffet I really didn’t need. I headed back up to the room, grabbed my bag, and headed back to the station, where I had a really good station bakery breakfast while waiting on the first train to the airport.
I felt I was very early for my flight; I arrived at the terminal 2 full hours ahead and there were only a handful of people checking in for the British Airways flight to London. Checking in was no problem despite needing to go to a separate bag drop-off so they could put my backpack in a plastic bin for it’s ride through the handling system. On my way to security I noticed I had plenty of time left and was starting to think of actually having a chance to kick back and have a second breakfast while I waited, but then I rounded a corner and saw a line stretching off as far as I could see the other way.
It was a nightmare. Over 50 minutes of waiting in a line seeming to go nowhere with a large number of other people who were also on a schedule which was gradually tightening. The bottleneck was departing passport control for non-EU citizens, and for whatever reason only 4 of the 6 stations were staffed and they were not flowing quickly. Every so often someone would make an announcement about passengers for flight this-or-that which was about to close boarding needing to identify themselves and then be checked off a list and sent through an expedited line, and yet more often as the line wound around itself someone would try and sneak across a lane with a mumbled “I’m late for my flight…”. Or at least they did until an older gentleman a few places ahead of me turned to one of them and loudly told them off. End result of the experience: I got to the boarding gate for my flight with just enough time before boarding to buy a token last pretzel and stop off at the restroom.
Departure from Munich was quite scenic for the first 10 or so minutes, then we went over clouds and it stayed that way through landing at Heathrow. I had a fairly long layover, so the time involved in the shuttle bus from terminal 5 to terminal 3, a 20 minute security line (which felt short in comparison to the fiasco in Munich) , and hiking through the various hallways to get to the waiting area was far less stressful than the morning in Munich had been. I had a bit over 2 hours to kill, so after meandering through duty free shopping options I eventually found a restaurant with an open seat and completed my artificial airport English visit with a fish pie and a pint.
My transatlantic leg was on a 747-400 to Phoenix, a route I had intentionally selected despite adding a layover so that I could have an intentional final flight as a passenger on a 747-400 before they all get retired. I was on G-CIVD and happened to land the seat in the last rows of the airplane where the window side seating changes from 3 wide to 2 wide – which had the unanticipated perk of extra legroom. Sometimes it’s not all bad to be in the back.
Arrival in the US was surprisingly quick and easy, and I had enough of a layover to decide to end the trip with a decent dinner at one of the restaurants in the Phoenix airport. While I was eating, another diner got up to leave and swung his bag on his shoulder, inadvertently hitting the tray of a passing waitress and launching a tray full of beer at my seat. The waitress was incredibly embarrassed, the manager very apologetic, and the guy who caused it was gone.