I’ve got a ton of posts to crank out on our family vacation to Sicily and Salzburg. I’m hoping to get my butt in gear. Here’s a quick peek at what I expect to cover:
- Getting There. Connecting In Rome And Using Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Points Overseas
- Hotel Review: Sheraton Catania, Sicily
- A Return To Taormina, A Beautiful City On A Hill
- Our Favorite Part of Taormina
- Exploring Mt. Etna
- Walking And Eating In Downtown Catania
- A Day In Siracusa
- Priority Pass Lounge At Catania Airport
- Mess after Mess. airberlin To Salzburg
- Hotel Review: Sheraton Grand Salzburg
- Sound of Music Tour
- Walking Around Salzburg
- L’Osteria Restaurant
- Salt Mines at Berchtesgaden
- Cable Car at Untersbergbahn
- Tasty Donuts, Salzburg
- Train To Vienna
- Hotel Review: Park Hyatt Vienna, OMG
- Park Hyatt Vienna Review, Part 2
- Riding The U-Bahn Subway In Vienna
- Schmetterlinghaus: The Imperial Butterfly House
- Haus des Meeres: Aqua Terra Zoo
- Austrian Airlines Lounge, Vienna Airport
- Austrian Airlines VIE-IAD, Business Class Review
- Wrapping Up
There are a number of airlines that fly connecting itineraries from Catania to Salzburg, though nothing really in the way of nonstop flights. We chose a mid-morning airberlin flight that connected in Düsseldorf. This was my first time flying airberlin. I tried a few things just to get a sense for how the airline functions. We pre-purchased some meals for the flight and also bought an empty middle seat through their auction process.
The meals cost about 10 Euro a piece and we were ultimately approved for a 35 Euro charge for their “Extra Seat” option.
Delayed From The Start
The inbound aircraft was delayed in arriving. I didn’t note whether it was an Airbus 319 or 320. Once it got there, they announced they couldn’t fuel the plane and load bags at the same time due to regulations. We didn’t have a terribly long connection in Düsseldorf, and it was already in jeopardy even before we boarded. The engine had an exterior panel replaced that wasn’t logoed. Not really a safety issue, per se. Just something I don’t see a ton of.
The legroom in coach really wasn’t all that bad, though I don’t have the longest legs in the world. We didn’t buy preferred seats but survived just fine in plain old coach.
Losing The Auction We Won
We “won” the auction for an empty middle seat, but the staff in Catania didn’t really have any understanding of how it worked. Neither did we, so we ended up boarding and just taking the aisle and window seat on the boarding passes. My wife and son left the middle seat open, but that didn’t last long. Shortly thereafter, a man boarded the flight with a boarding pass for the middle seat we had purchased. He didn’t speak English and the crew told me that the flight was full and our empty middle seat had been revoked.
I pushed back on this quite a bit. After all, we had already paid for the seat. Plus, my son didn’t want a strange person he’d never met next to him, he wanted his mother. It was a bit of an insult to have my wife move to a middle seat when we were expecting to have some extra space. Talk about a downgrade!
I offered to take the middle seat and have my wife sit with our daughter. In the end, she moved to the middle and away we went. The windows were a bit dirty but there were still a few sights to see on take-off.
Our meals were as ordered. The quality of the food was about what I’d expected. It was an edible hot meal. I certainly like the concept of not having to track down meals for our kids in the airport prior to boarding. I just wish the food quality was better. The kids picked a bit at theirs. I ended up eating most of mine just out of hunger.
Running In Dusseldorf
We landed late in Dusseldorf and had to take a bus to the terminal. I set off at a dead sprint to try to get to our gate and have them hold it open. Thankfully, our connecting gate was only a couple hundred feet away. We did make our flight, but I was pretty sure our bags wouldn’t.
Our onward flight from Dusseldorf to Salzburg was on a Q400. The flight is only about an hour, so no issues there. We even got a little snack of sorts and drink service, which pales in comparison to United’s coach service on a 2-hour flight from their hub in Chicago.
Upon landing, we confirmed that our bags had not made the flight. It would be almost 2 days before we would see the bags again. We had very little success getting someone from airberlin on the phone. We got an initial promise of 50 Euro each to buy clothes. A few subsequent attempts to get reimbursed went unanswered. After spending a bit of time researching other customers with claims, it was pretty evident this was par for the course.
The Final Two Pennies
Our experience on airberlin was pretty darn subpar. Normally, I wouldn’t rate an airline based on one experience. But, I consistently hear stories about how bad they are at managing an airline. I though it was a good idea to auction the opportunity for a bit more space. Just too bad it worked out so poorly.
The delayed baggage is pretty customary. You fly enough (and take the risk of checking a bag) and that’s bound to happen. I’m sure I could have tried harder to get compensated, but they won that fight. My desire to be compensated was ultimately outweighed by the lack of any response from airberlin. I’m sure there are plenty of folks reading this that would have kept fighting. Ultimately, I decided I wasn’t willing to invest more time and gave up.
Thank goodness we had an awesome time in Salzburg. More to come!
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