07 September 2013

Copenhagen, quickly and not smoothly

The last couple of years, I've seen business class fares to Europe drop significantly.  This year, I found a decent fare to Copenhagen for a short weekend (leave Thursday night and return Sunday), so I booked it.  While I have been to Copenhagen before, I wanted to try a couple of different restaurants, which would give me something specific to do.  Unfortunately, when I tried to make dining reservations, I discovered that the time I picked to go would be when a big food event would be going on, making it difficult to get into some places.  The best I could do was wait list and see what happens.

Despite the uncertain dining plans, I was looking forward to the trip.  It also gave me the chance t try something I had not done before, which was to travel with carry-on bags only.  I upgraded myself to First class and seemed to be all set for the trip.  After we were all boarded onto the plane, we were notified there was a mechanical issue that would take a half-hour to resolve.  As I had a 1-hour, 45-minute layover in Frankfurt, I was not too concerned.  Unfortunately, the delay gradually evolved into almost a 3-hour departure delay (it grew by an half-our several times).  I decided there was not much I could do about my connection until we departed for sure.  The plane was equipped with wi-fi, so I knew I could try and check things out while airborne.  Plus, I assumed the United Global Services staff would have everything worked out one way or another, even though the United app showed that the connection that I was scheduled to take was the last flight showing.

After we took off and they turned the wi-fi on, I send an email to the Global Services desk and asked what my options were going to be.  During dinner, I logged into the Lufthansa app and checked to see what they how as available flights that might work as options.  I saw that there were flights both on SAS and Lufthansa that I would be able to take, based on our delayed arrival time.  After I awoke from my nap, I checked my email and did not see anything from Global Services.  I checked my reservation through the United app and saw that I was rebooked onto the next available flight, which was an SAS flight.

Upon landing in Frankfurt, I was expecting to be met at the Jetway by Global Services with boarding pass in hand and instructions for where I needed to go (it's my understanding that kind of service would be something to expect during irregular operations).  So, I kept walking and looked for the nearest Lufthansa Service Center.  The first one I found asked for my destination and referred me to a different service center in another section.  At that service center, they directed me to my eventual departure gate, which was located on another concourse.  This smaller concourse had no Lufthansa Lounge and no service centers.  So, I had to wait about 2 hours before the gate would be manned.

With my boarding pass from the missed flight and my itinerary copy, I explained to the gate agent my situation.  After much looking on the computer after I gave them my inbound delayed flight and ticket number, they told me that United had not rebooked the flight properly.  They said that none of the ticketing information was attached to the rebooking.  A phone call and a few conversations later, they decided that they would deal with United later on the ticketing issue and gave me a boarding pass (in business class, which was what i had booked) that had no ticket associated with it (or any connection to my itinerary).  I was glad that I had not checked any luggage!

Soon after, it was time to board.  The flight was being operated with a CRJ-700 regional jet, so we had to take a bus to the plane.  We also had to leave our carry-ons outside the plane before boarding, which I had never done on a European flight before).  With this flight, I would arrive in Copenhagen about 4 hours later than I had originally planned.  Fortunately, my hotel was the Hilton at the airport, so I didn't have to deal with any ground transportation.  But my dinner was going to be the small snack salad that SAS now provides as part of their standard short-haul food menu for business class, as well as a few snack items from the hotel's Executive Lounge.

The next day would be my only full day in Copenhagen.  The first thing I did after breakfast was go back to the airport and try to check in for my morning flight the next day.  I was concerned that something would be wrong since I did not take my scheduled flight and the flight I did take was not properly integrated into my itinerary.  Sure enough, I could not check in at the kiosks, which is what they expect of everyone when using Copenhagen Airport.  I went up to the Star Alliance Gold agent and explained that I had a check-in issue.  The agent was able to check me in easily.  So with that set, I walked back to the Metro station and bought my day-pass for transportation around town.

Central Copenhagen  is about 15 minutes from the airport, so it's a pretty easy ride, except when there are Metro issues.  There was a technical problem and we were forced off the train at a station short of my destination.  Eventually, it seemed like alternative means had to be found.  I went up to street level and figured out the bus to take me the rest of the way.  My first stop was to a large park that I had not seen on any prior visit called Frederiksberg Gardens.  After all that, I was ready for lunch.  I decided to try this dim sum place I had seen on the internet -- they even take online reservation s(although I didn't really need one.  I hopped on a bus to take me back across town.  The dim sum was fine -- items were ordered off a menu and were typical offerings with a little bit of a modern or Nordic twist to some.  It was, however, much more expensive than comparable offerings in the U.S.


After lunch, I walked down the street, taking in a view of the Palace area.  I then went to the Marble Church, where I had not had the chance on prior visits to visit the interior.

Afterwards, I hopped back onto a bus and headed to a "dessert boutique" that I had heard about called Strangas.  I had a couple of desserts that were good, although their real specialty seemed to be macaroons.

I had a little bit more time before I wanted to head back to the hotel, so I took the regional train to a large shopping mall.  I did pick up a few things, including some travel supplies and some special Swedish candy that I had discovered the last time I was in New York at a Swedish candy store (much cheaper in Copenhagen).

Since none of my dinner plans came through, I went back to the hotel for Executive Lounge food, and then headed back out for more strolling around town and a (short) visit to the Copenhagen Casino at the Radisson Blu Hotel.

The next day, I had a leisurely breakfast and then an easy stroll to the airport.  After a quick stop in the lounge (accessible with Priority Pass), I headed to the gate.  As I was checked-in at the gate, they took issue a little with my carry-on suitcase.  They thought it was too big for the plane.  I told them that it should fit fine.  Since I was in Business Class, I think they let me go.  I didn't realize at the time that the carry -on limitations are different on foreign carriers, even among Star Alliance carriers.  There is a posted weight limit of 8 kg.  If they had done a check, I think I would have passed the size check, but not the weight check.  And once I was on board, I did have an issue with the length of the bag. Fortunately, I was able to put it in the overhead the expected way (wheels first) and force the bin door shut.  I was just glad I was on a regular jet for the hop over to Frankfurt.

After that, my flights and connections went as expected, with nice flights and good food, and my short weekend jaunt to Copenhagen came to a close.  I'll still have to go back to get to Geranium (the restaurant I was hoping to try).

Upon my return, I wrote another note to United Global Services and explained my disappointments.  I received a prompt (within 24 hours) but canned response which could have been sent to anyone at any status saying we're sorry, we'll do better, and hope you will give us another chance soon.  I'm just not sure Global Services lives up to the expectations they tell us to have.

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