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October 17, 2007

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Cologne, Germany

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Guten tag from Germany! I am eating my way through Cologne this week, visiting one of the world's largest churches and checking into one of the city's newest hotels. Don't have time to sit back, relax and read this week's story? Don't worry; there's a two-minute Johnny Jet video at the end! Plus, if you're looking for more to read, check out Buzzy Gordon's account of a recent flight cancellation at a US airport that resulted in total chaos. It's an excellent reminder to the airlines about the immeasurable importance of customer service.

The first leg of my European adventure began touring London and Wales with my incredible father. Unfortunately, he had a prior engagement back home in the United States so he couldn't continue on with me to Germany. Normally, I would have jumped on one of German Wings' cheap flights between London and Cologne but they and the other low-fare carriers don't fly out Heathrow. Most budget airlines use London's alternate airports (Stansted, Luton and Gatwick). Instead, the best deal I could find out of Heathrow was into nearby Düsseldorf and was triple the low-fare airlines' prices. But it was worth it since this meant I could escort my dad to his plane and not have to schlep my bags all around England. As you may already know, Heathrow has to be one of the world's worst airports; it's a complete mess and was just crowned Europe's worst airport for delays. This might change when the new Terminal 5 opens up in March. But until then, like any sane traveler, I try to stay away from the madhouse just like the low-fare carriers do. Thankfully, I found Terminal 1 to be quite pleasant. When we arrived at 6am for my dad's 8am flight, there was no wait at the United Airlines check-in or at security. What a relief!

My dad and I parted ways just before he went through security. Goodbyes are always difficult for me, especially when they involve my father. I don't get to see him very often (maybe once every two months) and we are very close. When he was no longer in my sight, I glanced down at my watch and saw that it was time to boogie so I could make my 7:50am flight. I was flying Lufthansa out of Terminal 2. It's not even a 10-minute walk between the two terminals and it's all indoors. I was walking along at a pretty good clip when suddenly, a beautiful, well-dressed woman overtook me. She walked by me like I was using a walker or something, with a nasty smirk that implied, "You're in my way, slowpoke!" Ooh! That ticked me off and triggered something inside me that hurtled me back in time to the road-rage days of my teenage years. With my jaw set firm, I watched her walking in front of me like she was all that, stepping on to the magic carpet without losing stride and picking up more speed.

Not wanting to be made a fool, I quickly grabbed an abandoned luggage cart and rode that bad boy like I do the shopping carts in the Target parking lot. Lucky me, there was a slight decline, so I picked up so much speed that I rode right past her, sticking my tongue out in jest as I rolled by. I'm not really sure where that came from but it was pretty funny, though her cold and stoic face implied that she didn't find it quite so amusing. Anyhow, I learned that the carts in Europe aren't built like the ones at home. These things move ... I mean MOVE and are almost fast enough for the Autobahn. I was seriously cruising. In fact, I was going way too fast and before I knew it, I was losing control. I just remember being thankful that no other passengers were in front of me because just before I hit the wall (you knew that was coming, didn't you?), I jumped off and raked my ankle along the wheel. My bags went flying. Ouch! Miraculously, I didn't accompany my bags as they went sliding along the ground. I not only mangled my ankle but made a complete ass of myself in the process. And guess who snickered at me as she stepped over my bags?

Check-in for my Lufthansa flight took just two minutes and security was a quick five-minute stint. Fortunately, I didn't need to remove my shoes because my bloody sock would have raised a few eyebrows. There was plenty of time to treat my wound and mill around the duty free shops until my gate showed up on the departure screen. I think that not displaying gate numbers until the last minute is a plot devised by the duty free stores and airport officials; this way, travelers are forced to stay in the main area and have nothing to do but shop. Well, it works. I purchased some last-minute duty free gifts ... and some Band-Aids. But one upside is that the airport's Harrods store prices seem to be a bit cheaper than they are in their flagship location in Knightsbridge.

Flying into Düsseldorf was cheaper than flying directly into Cologne; I saved over $100. Unlike most of the business travelers on my flight, I didn't have any appointments and Cologne is just a 35-minute, 9-euro train ride away. Flight time was a short 55 minutes and I was impressed by the efficiency of the attractive Lufthansa flight attendants. Unlike the low-fare carriers, Lufthansa serves free food and drinks. Okay, so the mini cheese sandwich and tasty banana chocolate breakfast bar are not worth the extra cash, but my stomach sure appreciated it! Plus, I accrued United miles, since Lufthansa is one of their partners. Not bad, all in all.

This was my first time traveling through the Düsseldorf airport, which I found to be way cool. It's modern, clean, bright and easy to get around. They have a SkyTrain that's a fully automated cable railway that brings passengers from the terminal to the railway building. Trains to Cologne depart frequently (some leave every 20 minutes) and I had no hiccoughs buying a ticket. TIP: Be sure to get your ticket stamped by inserting it into one of the orange date machines before getting on; otherwise you risk getting a fine if the conductor comes around to check tickets.

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Copyright 2007 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


Heathrow Airport


Which Gate?


Gate Screen


Lufthansa to Germany


Snack on Lufthansa


Düsseldorf Airport


Free Newspapers




Validate Ticket


Trains to Cologne


Train to Cologne


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