Or: How messed up can a flight connection really be?

As promised in my previous blog post this is the story of my job interview(s):

A few days after I got back from Nepal and I had invitations from two companies (A & B). The interview with company A was supposed to be on the Tuesday in Bergen and the interview with company B on Wednesday in Stavanger. So I thought I was being clever in booking the flights in one go. Hamburg -> Bergen; Bergen -> Stavanger; Stavanger -> Hamburg. That complicated things slightly as I was about to find out. My interview was supposed to start around 11 on the Tuesday so I booked the first flight on the Monday evening and wanted to stay in a hotel.

I heard on the radio the day before that there’s a storm in the UK and we would get the same weather soon after. I was waiting on the platform to get to the airport and suddenly all the lights went out. A tree had fallen on the tracks somewhere.

I immediately started running towards the next taxi stand and I shared a taxi to the airport with two others. Of course by the time I got to the airport we were running pretty late. So I enter the departure hall and look at the screen with the flight stats and I see every single flight is green and on time. Except mine… CANCELED

Well fudge… It was the Lufthansa flight to Copenhagen and Copenhagen airport was hit by the storm just before Hamburg so the plane never left Copenhagen. I was one of the first in line at the Lufthansa desk in the airport and as I was lining up I saw all of the other flights changing their status to CANCELED as well. So in a way I got lucky that my flight was the first to get canceled because the Lufthansa desk was totally swamped within minutes. I was maybe number 15 in line instead of number 250 if I had waited one second more. Even that took a long time but after about 2h in line and lots of cursing around me I got a new flight to Bergen on the same day… I couldn’t believe it. I thought all hope was lost and then the lady tells me that I could still make it. I was so happy that moment.

The new flight was with Germanwings via Manchester but quite late. I knew time was critical as I had to make it to the connecting flight to Bergen at 22.30. It was already getting late and when I sat all boarded and ready in the plane on the runway in Hamburg I already knew we’d be a bit delayed but I didn’t want to make myself crazy so I stopped looking at my watch.
When we landed in Manchester I jumped out the plane as quickly as I could and ran towards connecting flights. I followed the signs and suddenly I was standing in an unlit corridor. A cleaning lady mopping the floor in the distance… I was too late. So naturally I was pretty devastated.
I went to stand in line at the Lufthansa desk in Manchester, the only one still open at that hour. Probably 10-15 people in front of me and I was just standing there waiting and hoping that the guy would sort things out for me. Then it was my turn, but I only got bad news. My original carrier was Lufthansa, but they moved me over into Germanwings for the substitute flight (which is a Lufthansa daughter company) so their system prevented them of giving me a new flight the next morning. And he had some more bad news for me…. He also couldn’t give me a hotel voucher.

I had to spend the night on an uncomfy bench on Manchester airport. I told myself, if I don’t want to be a zombie the next morning and if by a miracle I still make it to Bergen I’d need a bed to sleep. Went to some taxi driver and asked him if he knew a nearby hotel and he responded that all the hotels are booked because of the storm that hit the UK earlier. So still plenty of people were stranded in the city. He told me that behind a certain kiosk in the hall there is a bench that is less uncomfy than all the others… In a way he was right… but I still call this night the worst night of my life somewhere half awake, half asleep under bright lights and using my jacket as a blanket.

At 5.30am the Germanwings desk opened up and I explained the situation to her. The two-hour-free Wi-Fi told me there was a flight out of Manchester to London at 6.15 and that was the straw I was grasping, that by some miracle I could still make it to Bergen and have the interview at 11am. My hopes were immediately crushed. No seat available and the only connection that would work that same day was via Frankfurt…. Frankfurt… about 500km further south than my original starting point in Hamburg… What a joke! But in the end it was the only way I could still make it to Stavanger the next day because I booked the flights individually with a one-way ticket from Bergen to Stavanger in the middle.

So I had to take it, called up the HR lady at company A and explained the situation to her. She understood, had a good laugh and promised we would reschedule as soon as possible.

At noon I made it to Frankfurt. I was pretty jaded and the only thing that saved me were the super-comfy Lufthansa lounge chairs. What a blessing!

My flight out of Frankfurt (directly) to Bergen was at 3pm and I think I slept the majority of it. Spending that much time at airports make you weary. I arrived in Bergen at 5pm only to catch my flight to Stavanger at 6.30pm

What a trip! I took a taxi to my hotel and went to bed immediately. I slept like a stone. It was one of these weird dreamless sleeps. Just lights out as soon as you hit the bed.

The next morning the interview itself went swimmingly and I had a good feeling about it.

On my way back I had a connection in Copenhagen again. As we roll towards the gate I see a plane a couple of gates down and see the engine cover is open and mechanics are working on it. I think to myself: “Hope that’s not my flight”

Well… turns out it was my flight. An additional 2h delay just waiting at the airport. We boarded and as we sat down the pilot says: ‘We have a broken fuel pump’ … he pauses awkwardly for about 5s, everyone looks at each other confused and then he adds quickly: ‘Oh yah, but now it’s fixed and we’re good to go :D’

I arrived in Hamburg pretty late but went to dinner with my sister who was in town for the week and I kind of ditched her for the interview (sorry again, but I think she understood why I had to go). I got a phone call that same evening with company B offering me the job. I was the happiest person alive in that moment! 😀

Company A immediately rescheduled and I got an instant interview two days after (it helps to mention that you need to decide within this week). And surprisingly now the flight connection went very smooth and the same goes for the interview, but it was kind of sterile. Here, sit down in the lobby. Wait for you to get picked up. Go to the conference room X. Thank you for the interview. Here’s the door. Bye. The interview itself was good and I had a good feeling but I just didn’t feel that welcome.

In the end they offered me two positions at their company and I basically could pick between 3 positions in Norway. Sounds like total luxury, and as I’m looking back onto this (writing this in 2015) after the oil price crash I realize what a crazy situation this really was. Nowadays people have big trouble finding a job and I could pick and choose…

In the end I went with the offer from company B. The interview process itself was pretty much identical but I felt a bit more welcome. It was a smaller interviewee pool, everyone got a tour of the building, and I got to know some employees over a coffee and could ask them some questions.

Looking back now two years it was the best decision to follow that instinct. Company B gave me opportunities and exposure to parts of the business that I wouldn’t have gotten exposure to at company A.