Home again, efficiently

My flight from Helsinki was supposed to leave at 7:15am, so I booked a taxi for 5:15am.  Even though it was snowing, I was still at the airport by 5:40am, and completely checked in and through security by 5:50am.  I guess I could have slept later.

Most of the shops were already open, and Stockmann opened at 6:15, so I did some last minute candy-buying (I thought about bringing smoked salmon or smoked trout home, but I was worried about not being able to keep it cold), and still had 20 minutes to kill in the SAS/Star Alliance lounge. 

European airline lounges are different from the Admirals Club.  They always have a variety of things to eat and drink, all for free (and yes, there was wine, beer, and hard liquor available at 6:30am!), as well as an assortment of newspapers and magazines.  My Admirals Club membership is going to expire next month, and I’m not sure I’m going to bother to renew it — I don’t fly American as much as I used to, and the benefits of the club seem to be diminishing every year.

The plane had to be de-iced before we could leave, and then the captain announced that we were going to be flying without water (and so no coffee!), but he thought that was better than waiting around for an hour or two until they could fix it.  I thought so, too, since my connection in Frankfurt was only an hour.

Well, it was supposed to be an hour.  But we had to be de-iced in Helsinki and were in a holding pattern in Frankfurt, so, even though I was the first person off the plane, I had only 30 minutes before my flight home was due to take off.  And, of course, it was at the other end of the concours.  And I had to go through passport control and security.  I wasn’t optimistic, especially considering they’d made an announcement on the plan urging US-bound passengers to go directly thru security as “the procedures are time-consuming”.

There was a line at passport control, but there was also a pointer to “additional passport control” a few meters away, so I went there.  At first, I thought that had been a mistake, as I only saw lines for EU passport holders and for crew, but they were taking everyone, and I had no trouble.  Elapsed time: 3 minutes.

Security had a longer line — there was a separate line for First/Business passengers, which helped a bit.  What helped more was my asking several people ahead of me when their flight was — and everyone whose flight was after mine offered to let me go ahead of them.  I was impressed.  Screening was thorough — they use a hand wand for everyone, rather than having you walk through a magnetometer as happens in the US.  And, although I had to remove the computer from its case, I didn’t have to remove my shoes.  Total time in security: 10 minutes.

From there, it was a quick dash to another barrier whose purpose I didn’t take the time to understand, but which had a very short line, and then a hike to the end of the terminal.  I was on the plane by 9:40, 15 minutes after getting off the incoming flight.

I think they held the plane for some late arrivals, because they didn’t close the doors until 10:05 or so.  By that time, I was settled in and ready to go home.

I thought the food in this direction was better than my outbound trip — it was inspired by Chef Tam Kok Kong of the China Club Berlin.   The wine list was the same, but this time I remembered to ask about the Wine of the Month, which was a 2000 Pierre/Rodet Beaune Premier Cru (I should have been more careful in copying down the label!).  It was very pleasant, but I preferred the 2003 Dornfelder Classic.

We arrived on time; my luggage was one of the last bags to be unloaded (I guess it had a hard time making the connection in Frankfurt, too), but I was still home by 2pm — just in time to go out with Diane and Jeff for lunch at Willow Street Pizza in Los Gatos.

And even though it was raining a little bit at home, it was much easier to deal with than the weather in Helsinki today: snowing most of the day, with highs near zero Fahrenheit.  It’s good to be home!