The Secret Science of a Seat Upgrade & Fun While Fighting Jetlag

I arrived back in Germany on Sunday morning, one day later than originally planned. Ah, the joy frustrations of travel. Here’s a recap of what happened:

I got to the Indianapolis Airport on Friday a little after 6pm, and had plenty of time to hang out in the food court area with my mom and dad before flying at 8.16 pm. We said our farewells, I went through security with no problems, and decided to try to speak to someone at the gate about my seat assignment for the trans-Atlantic flight. When I got to the gate, there were already two longish lines at both my gate and the one directly next to it. I figured out that the flight going to Washington Dulles had been delayed by two hours due to weather, so that meant quite a few people were going to miss their connecting flights. The agent at the desk I was waiting in line for appeared to be having a very, very bad day. She kept putting her head down on the desk and rubbing her temples. By the time I finally got up to the desk to speak to her, I had heard murmurings of “Chicago” and “delay”from people around me, and my question changed from “Can I have an aisle seat?” to “Is there a problem with the Chicago flight?” Her eyes got big and wild and she asked her colleague next to her if there was a problem with the Chicago flight, too? He goes, “Oh, yeah….mechanical failure. It hasn’t even left Chicago yet and will probably end up delayed by a couple of hours.” It was then determined that there was no way in you-know-what that I was going to make my connecting flight to Frankfurt. I felt badly I just had made her day worse, and offered her some ibuprofen. It was the least I could do. After a 10-minute break to “get some air,” she re-booked both my flights for the next day and I phoned my mom and dad to come and get me. My dad’s first words were, “Wow, honey…the time really flew by in between visits this time!” Har har.

Both flights on Saturday went smoothly. I had sort of hoped, however, that I might be able to angle for a seat upgrade on the trans-Atlantic flight given that I had been delayed for an entire day due to the mechanical failure.

First-class on a United 747: it probably looked something like this, but I wouldn't really know.

The gate agent in Chicago told me, however, that United would only be responsible to compensate in me in some way if I had been stranded in a city other than my city of origin (i.e. if I had been stuck in Chicago instead). I just accepted what she told me without any kind of fuss, but I still find it a little surprising that I wasn’t entitled to anything after being delayed for a full day due to circumstances within United’s control (i.e. not weather-related). Since I’ve never – ever – been given any kind of seat upgrade, and just about everybody else under the sun and their brother has at some point, I keep wondering what the secret formula for success is?  I know airline reward programmes offer upgrades, but I’m talking about all the people I hear about who get seemingly random ones. Is it sheer luck? Pushiness? Calamity? When the Mr. and I flew to Vegas to get married with my wedding dress in tow, I thought, “Maybe, just maybe….” Nada. Of course I’ve had flights cancelled, delayed, etc. but never an upgrade to show for it. And on numerous occasions I’ve graciously been the volunteer to swap seats to accommodate a family, or to balance out the plane…zip. I wonder, if I were struck by lightning on the tarmac walking out to the plane, perhaps then I’d get a seat upgrade? Even a teensy one?? Nah, probably not. Anyhow, I did manage to get an aisle seat and some sleep, so I’m thankful for both of those things. And of course thankful that the plane didn’t go down. Always a satisfied customer when that doesn’t happen.

The Mr. met me at the airport and I was VERY delighted to discover he had rented a car. I had warned him numerous times that my luggage was going to be very heavy and cumbersome, so it might be in our best interest to just rent a car instead of trying to take the train back. He was holding firm, though, that the train was more convenient and a better option (for him. See, this is key. Trying to lug around luggage on a train is never the convenient and “better” option for me.) When I saw him at the airport he explained that the train times on Sunday morning hadn’t really been ideal, so he decided at the last minute it might make more sense to just go ahead and rent something. He got a Volkswagen Scirocco, a little car with a whole heck of a lot of vroooom.

It goes real, real fast.

Since he had rented a car, we figured “why not make use of it?” and do a little sightseeing. Keeping me up on my feet would also reduce the chances of falling asleep on my bed in the middle of the day and turning into a snarling bear when wakened. So from the airport, we decided to go check out Darmstadt, a city that the Mr. had once studied in. Darmstadt town center is, well, kind of depressing. It was flattened during WWII and was rebuilt quickly and without character. I really found myself why we were bothering to visit at all. But then The Mr. took me to an area of Darmstadt that wasn’t destroyed and is full of gorgeous art nouveau houses and buildings. Count me impressed.

Darmstadt in all its glory.

After Darmstadt, we headed to a little village with a castle called Burg Stettenfels where we met the Mr.’s parents and his sister and her family for dinner.

Burg Stettenfels

We had dinner outside on the grounds of a castle overlooking the town. It was a beautiful evening; warm, but not too buggy or humid. I think I like summer in Germany, as long as it doesn’t get too hot. We’ll get to that in a minute.

In general I had trouble staying awake in the car for very long, but the good thing was that for some reason I would only need a power nap of 20 minutes or so, and then I would be awake for a while. Then I’d need a nap again, but I’d wake up. (Unfortunately the napping began a couple of times while the Mr. was in the middle of telling me something. Oopsy.) Somehow driving around and cat-napping in between destinations seems to be the ideal solution for jet-lag as you’re never allowing yourself to fall into a deep sleep but you are recharging the batteries a bit. (And at one point I woke up to find us driving 100 mph on the autobahn, so this is also an effective cure for jet-lag, causing instant alertness. Not that I’d recommend it, though.)

By the time we got home that night, I was pretty tired but still managed to stay up until about 11.30pm. Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep very well as Germany’s having a bit of a heat wave at the moment, and no one has air conditioning at home. Or on public buses. It’s just plain wrong, people. Today the temperature got up to 95 degrees, and I nearly died from a heat stroke walking into town, but that’s a story for another day.


About bittenbythebug

I love travel and have always been fascinated by other cultures. Back in 2004, I began my life as an expat in Edinburgh, Scotland. Fast forward 5 1/2 amazing years later to 2010 and the new chapter in my expat adventure: Würzburg, Germany.
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9 Responses to The Secret Science of a Seat Upgrade & Fun While Fighting Jetlag

  1. Bonnie says:

    I’m glad you made it home safely. Curl up with an Ikea catalogue and stay cool!

  2. cliff1976 says:

    You’d think if they’re not going to air condition the busses they’d at least make deodorant mandatory, right?

    Welcome back. And good luck in your contunuing quest for an airline upgrade (I’ve never gotten one either).

    What’re.your plans for September? How about a weekend in Hamburg with other expatriate bloggers? Details are at – register there, and I’ll approve your registration so you can log in and take a look around.

    • Thanks, Cliff. On the deodorant note, I’ve only had a small taste of how bad it can be, and oh my….My husband and I were in a cafe yesterday and he started laughing at one point. He told me later that a group of older women we were sitting next to were complaining that old men stink the worst in weather like this and never wear deodorant!

      I would love to get together with other bloggers, but we are hoping to do some travel in September. When is the expat meet-up happening?

      • cliff1976 says:

        It’s September 11-12, but some people arrive on the 9th or 10th, depending on interests and availability (we’re flying in the evening of the 9th). It’s a good way to explore a new town and (laughingly) collectively lament our choice of residence country in our native language.

      • Hmmm….okay, we’re still in the process of figuring out where we’re going and when, but good to know those are the dates. I would enjoy meeting up with everyone, so I hope it will work out for us to make it!

  3. fenella says:

    Hey luv,

    glad you got home with stuff in tow safe and sound. I’ve heard about the heatwave in Germany from colleagues. We’ve got a max of 25C and they’re talking about upwards to 30! heh heh Scotland finally gets her own back!

    It’s really wet wet yesterday and today. And I’ve got young family friends of Lindsey coming to stay. They’re doing the FSU programme in London and doing the travelling around Europe bit. So I’ve offered a place to stay. I feel a bit sorry for them having had beautiful dry weather for the most part up til yesterday.

    I watched The Duchess last night. Better than i expected, glad i watched it. Tonight I’m watching Adam which had been in the Film Festival last year. Unless I’m playing hostess to the visitors.

    Good luck with the jetlag etc.


    • Upwards of 30…oh, it figures Scotland would get a heatwave on the first summer after we’ve moved away! We’re being punished, sniff, sniff.

      I haven’t seen Adam. What did you think? And did you end up playing hostess to the visitors?

  4. Pingback: Stuck in Coach Forever | The Grass is Always Grüner

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